Absentee voting up in Lawrence and Meade Counties

Voter turn out also expected to be up
Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 6:48 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Across the country and western South Dakota, absentee voting is up this general election, with multiple West River counties already reporting a large increase in absentee ballots received.

The auditors of both Lawrence and Meade counties say absentee voting in their respective counties has seen significant increases in this election.

“Our numbers are way up this year, especially with the pandemic,” said Lisa Schieffer, the Meade County Auditor. “A lot of people are coming in a doing early voting, so that has been a challenge in our office, of course, of almost having your numbers being doubled.”

Schieffer said in the past, the most absentee ballots in Meade county was about 3,800. As of Wednesday, 6,200 absentee ballots have been cast. In Lawrence County, 8,107 absentee ballots have been cast on Wednesday afternoon, which is about 3,000 more than normal.

“Here in Lawrence County, we have been able to keep everything the same as we have in the past,” said Brenda McGruder. “We haven’t made any changes to our process, as far as accepting the absentees, with the exception, of course, of following the CDC guidelines.”

McGruder and Schieffer said their polling places would be socially distant, with sanitation efforts on each voter station, pen, and ballot.

To count absentee ballots, the process slightly varies from county to county, but 7 p.m. local time is the important hour.

“What most of the counties are going to do, if they have an absentee precinct board, is they’re going to start running those ballots through during the day, so most of those will be through the machine and counted,” said Schieffer. “But, we cannot release information until after 7 p.m.”

“We do ours by alphabet, and after everything is balanced by that particular alphabet, they’re brought into the tabulator, and that particular letter is run through the tabulator and processed, and we just do that--A through Z,” said McGruder. “People have until 7 p.m. to drop off an absentee ballot, so we wait to see if any come in the mail, or if any are dropped off here or in the dropbox, and then after 7 p.m., we run any that have come in through that time frame, and then at that time, we will release the results, as long as all of the polls are closed in South Dakota.”

As of Wednesday, McGruder said 45% of the registered voters in Lawrence County have voted. Schieffer expects voter turnout across the state to be up.

“I think we are going to see in South Dakota, one of the highest turnouts we’ve ever seen for a general election,” said Schieffer. “Not only are there some local races around the state that might have higher turnout, I think a lot of the initiatives--marijuana-- is going to turn out a higher volume of voters as well.”

In future elections, Schieffer thinks more people will vote early.

She said if you did vote early, you can track your ballot on the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website.

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