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Post-election audit law doesn't quell calls for hand count

With election security a hot topic going into November, auditors from Deadwood to De Smet want to be ready for the show. That includes the state’s biggest county, where the matter was addressed at the most recent commission meeting.

It was a busy, at times tense meeting in the Minnehaha County Administration building this week as election integrity concerns drew a significant crowd.

State law calls for audits to take place after elections specifically to alleviate such concerns. County auditor Leah Anderson, who ran on a promise of election integrity, explained how this audit is planned.

“The post-election audit is to be conducted within 15 days following the completion of the state canvas," Anderson said. "The cost is to be reimbursed by the office of Secretary of State. The post-election audit must be conducted in five percent of the precincts and must contain 100 ballots per precinct. If the ballots in a precinct are less than 100 ballots, additional precincts must be selected.”

Commissioner Jean Bender questioned Anderson on what comes after that audit.

“It’s difficult to keep these things straight sometimes – the recount and the audit – because they’re totally different processes," Bender said. "The results of the audit, you then turn into the Secretary of State, is that correct?”

“Yes, we do,” Anderson said.

“What is the deadline for that,” Bender asks.

“That deadline is the 26th (of November),” Anderson responds.

However, if public comment was any indication, the audit process has done little to ease concerns with elections. Some, like Kerry Meier, are still pushing for a hand count in the states most populous county.

“Since not everybody here is going to get up and speak, I’d like to address a question to the people that are here," Meier said. "Anybody here that is in favor of hand counting – what Leah (Anderson) is doing – please respond by saying aye, and this includes the overflow room.”

That question elicited loud ayes during the meeting.

Election officials widely regard the current system as reliable, with many auditors across the state strongly opposed to a hand count.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture
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