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South Dakota joins Texas lawsuit seeking to block electoral votes of four states

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Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg

South Dakota has joined a lawsuit filed by Texas that asks the U.S. Supreme Court to block four states from voting in the Dec. 14 Electoral College.

Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, is demanding that the 62 total Electoral College votes in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin be invalidated. That’s enough, if set aside, to swing the election away from President-elect Joe Biden to President Donald Trump.

Paxton’s suit repeats a litany of unsupported allegations about mail-in ballots and voting in the four battlegrounds. The Supreme Court, unanimously and without comment Tuesday, already refused to call into question the certification process in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Attorney General said last week that his office uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election. Out of the roughly 50 lawsuits filed around the country contesting the Nov. 3 vote, Trump has lost more than 35 and the others are pending, according to an Associated Press tally.

Despite this, South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg signed a brief Wednesday in support of Paxton’s lawsuit.

“The State of South Dakota believes in free and fair elections,” his spokesman Tim Bormann said in an email. “Our office has received thousands of calls and emails from concerned citizens and we have listened to our constituents and voters.”

Bormann did not immediately respond to questions asking for evidence that thousands of South Dakotans have emailed and called his office with concerns about elections in other states, and whether they were just sharing their complaints or specifically asked Ravnsborg to intervene through the courts.

Legal experts dismissed Paxton’s filing as the latest and perhaps longest legal shot since Election Day, and officials in the four states sharply criticized Paxton. “I feel sorry for Texans that their tax dollars are being wasted on such a genuinely embarrassing lawsuit,” Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said.

Paxton’s 154-page lawsuit claims that pandemic-era changes to election procedures in those states violated federal law, according to the Texas Tribune.

The brief in support of Paxton was filed by Missouri with support from the Republican attorneys general of South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Oklahoma, Indiana, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia , Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Among other arguments, the brief says the four states unconstitutionally stripped away safeguards for mail-in votes and doing so exacerbated the risks of fraud.

The South Dakota Secretary of State encouraged mail-in votes during the 2020 primary and general elections.

2020 had the “highest amount of absentee ballots in the general election,” according to Kea Warne, deputy secretary of state.

Warne said some mail-in ballots were thrown out if they arrived late, were missing a signature, or their signature didn’t match their registration signature. But she said there was no evidence of fraud, such as people trying to vote twice.

“We didn’t see any of that and that would also be reported to the state’s attorney in each county” if that happened, she said.

“We believe (our system) works very well because we have to have their signatures notarized or they have to send in a copy of their South Dakota driver's license with their application,” she said.

Bormann did not immediately respond when asked what Ravnsborg thinks is the difference between South Dakota’s absentee ballot system vs. the states' named in the lawsuit.

Trump said he plans to intervene in the lawsuit. 

“We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case,” Trump said hours before the high court filing. “This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!”

Ravnsborg, along with Gov. Kristi Noem and Lt. Gov Larry Rhoden, will cast their votes for Trump on Dec. 14. 

Rapid City Journal reporter Arielle Zionts contributed to this report.

— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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