South Dakota's secretary of state urges voters to trust election officials

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A new brochure from Secretary of State Monae Johnson aims to address common election integrity questions in advance of the 2024 election, according to a Tuesday news release.

The brochure, titled “A Guide to Secure Elections in South Dakota,” is designed to explain “different security measures South Dakota has put in place to protect our elections,” according to the release.

The pamphlet notes that the state uses paper ballots, that the tabulator machines used to tally votes are not connected to the internet, and that state and local authorities regularly review the eligibility of registered voters and purge ineligible voters from the rolls.

It also trumpets South Dakota’s voter identification rules, which require photo ID checks by poll workers on election day. Voters without an acceptable photo ID can cast a provisional ballot.

The South Dakota brochure is tied to an educational push from the National Association of Secretaries of State dubbed #TrustedInfo2024. The national website says the campaign is meant to bolster the importance of state-level election officials as “trusted sources of election information during the 2024 election cycle and beyond.”

Johnson’s news release includes a nod to her role as that information source in South Dakota.

“My number one job as Chief Election Officer is to ensure that we conduct fair and accurate elections for the citizens of South Dakota,” the release says. “Our office will continue to focus our resources on the protection of our election systems and overall election security.”

The term “election integrity” has come to carry additional weight in the years since the 2020 election. Former President Donald Trump consistently claims, without evidence, that he won the presidential race that year, and some polling suggests that a third of Americans agree.

In South Dakota, Johnson’s rise to the state’s top election post was fueled in part by promises to protect elections. Her campaign materials leaned into election integrity language, citing opposition to voter fraud, online voting and online voter registration, and she refused to affirm the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election when questioned by reporters.

She secured her place on the 2022 ballot by earning more state GOP convention support than former Secretary of State Steve Barnett.

She lobbied for post-election audits in early 2023, a move that sailed through the 2023 Legislature with wide support from state lawmakers and Gov. Kristi Noem, who signed the audit bill into law.

Meanwhile, voter integrity activists in the state, some affiliated with organizations called the South Dakota Canvassing Group and Midwest Swamp Watch, have expanded their public engagement. Minnehaha County commissioners frequently field public comments on election integrity, for example, and activists offered point-by-point feedback on election rules written and refined this summer and fall following the establishment of post-election audits.

In addition to a link to the new brochure, Johnson’s news release encourages voters to reach out to their county auditors if they’d like to participate directly in elections as poll watchers or election workers.