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Board of Elections, Secretary of State reject hand count petitions

Sample ballots from the 2022 South Dakota General Election.
Sample ballots from the 2022 South Dakota General Election.

The South Dakota Board of Elections is rejecting an effort to move the state back to hand-counted ballots.

The move resulted in heated public comment during Wednesday's meeting, including calls for the Secretary of State to resign.

After a 45-minute executive session, the board announced a major aim of the South Dakota Canvassing group was not proper.

The group seeks to implement hand-counted ballots in response to mistrust of the electronic voting systems. Those petitions were submitted by Rick Weible.

Clifton Katz, the board's legal counsel, explained the roadblock the group ran into.

“In this case, Mr. Weible did not set forth an issue to be answered by the board," Katz said. "The petitioner instead wants the board to act by, among other items, issuing letters, decertifying ES&S Systems, and ordering the counties to suspend ES&S Express Vote system. Therefore, it is not appropriate to enter a declaratory ruling in this matter.”

The board, including Secretary of State Monae Johnson, moved unanimously in support of denial. Following that was 20 minutes of public comments that quickly descended into attacks on the credibility of the board. Weible described the decision as "misguided."

“You didn’t ask a single question about my petitions of me which makes you unqualified to ensure the integrity of our elections in the state, and I hereby ask all of you on the state Board of Elections resign due to willful negligence," Weible said. "I also ask the Secretary of State and Deputy Secretary of State resign due to willful negligence.”

Voting machines are widely regarded as trustworthy, and hand-counted elections in places like Tripp County were derided by local election workers.

On her way to winning the 2022 election for Secretary of State, Johnson ran on an "election integrity" platform. Indeed, many of the key supporters who helped Johnson unseat the incumbent Republican candidate expressed displeasure at the decision. That includes Nicole Braithwaite of Spearfish.

“It’s personal for me," Braithwaite said. "We are not going away, we will continue to expose your bad decisions, and quite honestly traitorous actions.”

Members of the crowd continued to decry the decision as the board attempted to adjourn after the public comment period expired.

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