Anyone can vote absentee
Method is simpler than it sounds
There are multiple reasons someone would want to cast their ballots in an election by absentee voting.
And it’s really not that hard to do.
“It’s really simple but it sounds kind of confusing,” said Janet Marx at the Day County Auditor’s Office. “It’s easy to come in and absentee if you’re thinking it won’t work (to vote on election) day. Now anybody can absentee vote.”
Previously absentee voting was thought to be only for those in military service deployed out of the area or for those who were homebound. Now, someone can absentee vote simply for the convenience.
One must register to vote absentee prior to the election if that’s the route they choose to go, Marx said.
Registration forms can be obtained from the Auditor’s Office or online at the Secretary of State’s website. Those who choose to go that route will need to have a copy of their driver’s license included or have the form notarized before returning it to the Auditor’s Office, Marx said. After that’s been done, an official ballot will be mailed back to the voter.
According to Marx, it is rare that a ballot is lost in the mail or doesn’t arrive. She said the Postal Service gives special attention and a higher priority to ballot delivery. If that ever happens, however, she said the voter should contact their office and they’ll mail another one. However, only one ballot can be returned.
An “authorized messenger” can pick up and deliver a ballot; an extra portion of the registration form needs to be filled out and the “messenger” will have to sign the form as well.
Absentee voting can also be done in person, at the Auditor’s Office, ahead of an election. In this case, a person would fill out an absentee voter registration form and a ballot.
When a ballot is returned through the mail, it is placed inside a sealed envelope with the voter’s signature on the back, which is compared to the signature on the absentee voter registration form to verify; the same happens in the case of an “authorized messenger.” A person who absentee votes in-office also places their ballot in a sealed envelope. All of those ballots are then kept in a locked box in the vault at the Auditor’s Office until the ballots are distributed to the precinct workers.
Marx said no matter how a person chooses to return an absentee ballot, it must be returned by election day with enough time to get them to the precinct workers. If a ballot comes in the mail the day after the election, it will not be counted.
Once an absentee ballot has been returned, that person’s voter record in the computerized Total Vote system is marked as having voted absentee. That way, on election day, the precinct workers can tell from a printed list if someone has already voted.
When an absentee ballot is removed from its sealed envelope to be placed in the ballot box, Marx said care is taken to slide the ballot into a privacy sleeve first so the vote remains secret.
Absentee voting in South Dakota begins Sept. 21. Registration to absentee vote can be done at any time, but the ballots are not sent out until the official date.