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The 2020 election looms over Secretary of State race

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

The race for South Dakota secretary of state is centering around an election that occurred two years ago.

Republican candidate for Secretary of State Monae Johnson ousted incumbent secretary Steve Barnett by running on an "election integrity" platform.

Johnson said she opposes online voting and online registration. Barnett pushed for the latter during his four years in office.

But it’s the 2020 election hanging over the race for South Dakota Secretary of State.

Monae Johnson SDPB.png
Krystal Schoenbauer
Monae Johnson is the Republican candidate for South Dakota Secretary of State

Johnson insists she’s not an election denier. But in a recent interview on KELO-TV, Johnson refused to acknowledge Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.

In an interview with SDPB, Johnson said former President Trump won South Dakota.

“And Joe Biden won key states, so he is president,” Johnson said. “For me, I wasn’t in the office at the time, so I want to move forward. I want to have people moving forward to the primary and to the general and making sure what their votes count—who they vote for is what’s tabulated. So, I’m just pushing for that.”

That’s a concern among those who question the 2020 election—that vote tabulation machines switched votes to favor Joe Biden. It’s something former President Trump said during his speech moments before the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.

Democrats question Johnson’s judgement and ability to manage future elections.

Tom Cool is the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State. Cool is concerned Johnson is part of a slate of Republican candidates who want to make it harder to vote. Cool says Johnson wants to eliminate early and mail-in voting as well as voting machines.

Tom Cool SDPB.png
Krystal Schoenbauer
Tom Cool is the Democratic candidate for South Dakota Secretary of State

“Again, we haven’t been able to get a response from the Republican candidate about her position on whether she rejects these ideas," Cool said. "I strongly reject these ideas.”

A spokesperson for Johnson says those are not her priorities right now. Any substantive policy change to elections will require legislative approval.

Election day is Nov. 8.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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