More than 82,000 absentee ballots completed for today's primary election in state
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More than 82,000 absentee ballots completed for today's primary election in state

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SIOUX FALLS | Poll workers will attempt to space voters apart Tuesday during South Dakota's primary election, although there's a good chance most ballots will have already been submitted ahead of in-person voting.

The secretary of state’s office reports that more than 82,000 absentee ballots have been returned following an absentee voter campaign in order to avoid crowded polling places during the coronavirus pandemic. The number of absentee ballots returned is more than half of the total voter turnout for the last primary, which numbered about 141,000 statewide.

The results for the Democratic presidential primary won’t be much more than a statement in an all-but-decided race as Joe Biden looks to rack up enough votes nationwide to formally secure the nomination. Meanwhile, GOP Sen. Mike Rounds and Rep. Dusty Johnson are considered strong favorites to advance to the general election in an effort to secure second terms in the Republican-dominated state. The election will also decide a host of statehouse, city and school posts, including some contests that were postponed due to virus concerns.

Polling places will be open across the state from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but some county election officials have changed locations due to the coronavirus. Extra precautions amid the pandemic, fewer poll workers and additional ballots for local elections may result in long lines at some polling places, said Beadle County Auditor Jill Henson.

“We’re going to try to police everyone, but it kind of gets crazy with everything’s that going on,” Henson said.

Amy Scott-Stoltz, president of the League of Women Voters in South Dakota, said she still plans to show up at her local polling station in Sioux Falls to check how the voting process is working during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said that voting absentee works well for some who like to research the candidates as they fill out the ballot, but that an election where most people vote from the comfort of home also takes away some of “the pomp and circumstance of the vote — going to your polling place, seeing your neighbors.”

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REPUBLICAN SENATE PRIMARY

Rounds, of Fort Pierre, has not shown concern with his primary challenger, first-term Republican state Rep. Scyller Borglum from Rapid City. But she has taken an increasingly aggressive approach leading up to the election, trying to call out Rounds for encouraging Chinese foreign investment. She has even called him “China Mike” and posted an image on her campaign’s Facebook page with Rounds face photoshopped onto Mao Zedong.

Borglum may have gotten a boost from Fox News host Tucker Carlson last week after he said Rounds, along with eight other Republican senators, should lose their next primary for lobbying the White House to keep temporary worker visas for agriculture workers.

Rounds' campaign holds a commanding cash advantage, and he has not engaged with Borglum or entertained her request for a debate. He appears focused on talking about his track record in the Senate and as governor.

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REPUBLICAN HOUSE PRIMARY

Johnson, from Mitchell, is running for a second term for South Dakota’s lone seat in the U.S. House. He faces former state legislator Liz Marty May, a rancher from Kyle in the southwest corner of the state who has tried to challenge Johnson on his record of helping out cattle producers.

Her campaign has been mostly limited to the western half of the state and hampered both by a lack of cash and the coronavirus pandemic. Johnson has outspent his challenger by nine to one this election cycle.

The winner will have a clear path to Congress. Democrats failed to field anyone, and there is just one other candidate running: a Libertarian.

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LEGISLATIVE RACES

All 105 seats in the Legislature are up for grabs in November, but one leader is facing a tough primary challenge from a political newcomer.

Rep. Lee Qualm, who is currently the Republican House majority leader, is attempting to win a Senate spot because he is term-limited in the House. But after the Platte Republican introduced a bill that would have gotten rid of schools’ requirements for vaccinations earlier this year, he is facing an opponent with more campaign money and the backing of some doctors in the region.

Erin Tobin is a family nurse practitioner from Winner who has highlighted her health care experience, saying it’s important to have someone with a medical background in Pierre, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

In Rapid City, residents are voting on City Council, Pennington County Commission and school board races along with legislative seats.

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