South Dakota election officials stage “mock election”

The faux election serves as a way for officials to make sure that they, and their equipment, are on their game come Election Day.
Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 9:09 AM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. (KOTA) - South Dakota election officials are working to ensure that they are ready for the big day on November 3rd.

Despite this year’s election looking a bit different from years past, this is a normal practice every election year.

“(There is) maybe more scrutiny it is drawing, just from a national standpoint. More than ever, County Auditors are more diligent about making sure their tabulators are running right, and that is why these mock elections are important. To make sure that the machines are running right, and the tabulators are counting votes accurately.” says South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett.

With just twenty days till Election Day, election officials from counties all across the state staged a “mock election," intended to ensure that all equipment was working correctly and there were no hitches.

“Every election we do a mock election, and it is just a way to test the system,” says Hughes County Finance Officer, Jane Naylor. Naylor effectively serves as County Auditor in this role.

A third party vendor sends in paper ballots that are premarked or unmarked and allow the county to receive them to mark the ballots themselves. The counties then run the ballots through the appropriate machinery and ensure that the final tally matches what they had counted beforehand. They then turn in the “results” to the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office, just like they will on the general election night.

“Practice makes perfect, so we are all about making sure we get enough test runs before Election Day,” says Secretary Barnett.

“The goal is to just make sure it is a smooth process for all counties, and it went very smoothly for us this morning. It took Jennifer (us) about half an hour to enter our results,” said Naylor.

Secretary Barnett says that for the public, this should only further confirm South Dakota’s commitment to a free and fair election, where everyone’s vote is counted.

“We hope that the public continues to gain trust and realizes that our elections have integrity with the paper ballots that we use in South Dakota. I think that is a reassurance that things will go well and the tabulators aren’t connected to the internet, and I think that will give the public some peace of mind,” says Secretary Barnett.

This is the first of at least two such test runs that will occur, with the other set to take place on Oct. 21. If deemed necessary, the Secretary of State’s office could call for a third. However, Secretary Barnett said that there were no major fixes or hitches to report from the first test run.

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