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SD elections may get faster, easier in 2016

SD elections may get faster, easier in 2016

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PIERRE | Voters in South Dakota may soon see new technology that should make vote tabulation faster, and also improve voting for disabled people.

The state Board of Elections approved use of four additional devices for voting and counting ballots in South Dakota and adopted an assortment of small rule changes Thursday for the 2016 elections.

They include a basic counting device, a high-speed tabulating device, the company’s version of an AutoMARK machine for persons with disabilities, and the company’s ExpressVote Universal Voting machine that also can be used by persons with disabilities.

The four types of machines are products from Elections Systems and Software, a company based in Omaha, Neb.

Election officials from the South Dakota Secretary of State office tested the four machines as required under state law and state regulations.

“That was an all-day process and it was very thorough,” Secretary of State Shantel Krebs said.

The state board’s approval is necessary for counties to use a specific device.

“I do think they pass fine and should be recommended to the counties,” Brandon Johnson, the office’s Help America Vote Act coordinator, told the state board.

The four board members participating in the meeting voted in favor of approval.

Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz said he was “very interested” in using the ExpressVote machine for absentee voting in 2016. He said it could eliminate “human error potential” in matching the correct ballot to the specific absentee ballot.

“We’ve looked at them, and we think they may have some benefits for elections in South Dakota,” Litz said.

The board also adopted a variety of rule changes proposed by election officials. The next stop is consideration by the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee.

One of the changes, for example, would instruct voters to completely fill in the ovals declaring their choices on a ballot.

Another would clarify that recounts in elections voted in more than one county should be requested from the secretary of state, except for municipal and school candidates.

Krebs said her office received many inquiries after the April local elections about the recount procedure.

A current rule would be repealed that requires a municipality to publish a public notice if there won’t be a municipal election. State law doesn’t require it.

One proposal dealing with applications for absentee ballots was held back at Krebs’ request because she said she has received mixed comments from county auditors.

Three members of the state board — Linda Lea Viken of Rapid City and Drew Duncan and Dick Casey of Sioux Falls — weren’t able to participate in the meeting Thursday.

“We want to make sure we continue that conversation,” Krebs said.

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