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Minnehaha County Auditor floats potential hand count

The most populated county in South Dakota might ditch the voting machines and count its ballots by hand.

Minnehaha County Auditor Leah Anderson floated the idea at Tuesday's county commission meeting during a discussion on extending the contract with the Chicago-based company that handles the county's election services.

No action was taken on Anderson's hand count suggestion. Commissioners unanimously approved renewing the contract.

If Minnehaha ditched its vote counting machines, it wouldn't be the first South Dakota county to do so.

In Tripp County, the board of commissioners voted to enact hand counting following the 2020 election. The first hand count was done for the 2022 midterms.

Tripp County Auditor Barb Desersa said if Minnehaha County is serious about a hand count - buckle up.

“Well, it ended up being a long night," Desersa said. "Especially when they counted everything that was on the ballot – yeah, I can’t imagine being Minnehaha County and counting ballots. It just took a whole lot longer than we expected because we’d never experienced it.”

There are only 5,600 people in Tripp County. After the tally, Desersa was left wondering if it was even worth the trouble.

“Personally, I thought it was a waste of time because the machine proved to be correct, and the hand count did not,” Desersa said.

Human error, which Desera said was found in the Tripp County hand count tally, is just another factor to consider – a challenge likely to be amplified in a county nearing 200,000 people.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture