PIERRE – The number of votes cast in the general election for president would remain a secret until the Electoral College does its work, according to a bill that was endorsed Monday morning by the Senate State Affairs Committee.
SB103 would allow the secretary of state to provide percentages of the statewide votes cast for each presidential candidate, but not the vote totals.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls, the legislation would help ward off the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact which seeks to elect the president of the United States through a popular vote rather than the Electoral College.
“Can we trust the national popular vote when many states don’t require voter ID?” Stalzer asked the members of the committee. “The compact is a way to get around the Constitution without having to change it.”
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the compact. Stalzer said bills similar to SB103 are being introduced in other state legislatures.
Speaking in opposition to the bill was Dave Bordewyk, executive director of the South Dakota Newspaper Association.
“Our concern with this bill is the withholding of the actual votes from the public after an election,” Bordewyk said. Withholding vote totals would raise “suspicions in the minds of those who participated in the election.”
Passing SB103 would protect the Electoral College, according to Stalzer.
“This is a small way we can slow down, delay or even prevent the National Popular Vote (Interstate Compact) from undoing what the founders so carefully put together,” Stalzer said.
Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said presidential vote totals should be released.
“We were always taught – one man or one woman, one vote. That should be reported,” Heinert said. “I don’t see the problem in reporting those votes.”
The committee approved the bill on a vote of 6-2. It now goes to the full Senate.