South Dakota mail-in voting: What to know

As the United States prepares to hold a presidential election in the midst of a deadly pandemic, many states are relying on voting by mail to reduce in-person contact at the polls, including South Dakota.

South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett sent absentee ballot applications to all voters earlier this year on which they could have requested absentee ballots for the primary election, the Nov. 3 general election or both. The step by Barnett to encourage mail voting is in line with what many states have done, but does not go as far as some states that are mailing actual ballots to every voter.

“Ensuring every South Dakota voter has access to exercise their right to vote is the goal of all election officials in our state,” Barnett said in an April press release when his office decided to send all voters ballot applications. “In response to the current pandemic, we are encouraging all South Dakotans to utilize our state’s absentee vote-by-mail option for our upcoming elections. Absentee ballot applications will be mailed to each registered voter at the mailing address listed on their voter registration form.”

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ABSENTEE VOTING AND UNIVERSAL VOTE-BY-MAIL? 

South Dakota voters can still register to vote until Oct. 19, and absentee voting has been underway since mid-September. There will be in-person voting options as well, but voters are reminded that they can still choose to vote in-person if they previously requested an absentee ballot.

“Don’t vote the ballot you received in the mail & go visit your county auditor up until Nov 2nd or your polling location on election day. Voting twice is a felony,” Barnett said in a tweet.

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South Dakota law allows voters to request an absentee ballot by 5 p.m. of the day before the election, but because voters’ ballots must be received by the county elections office by Election Day, Barnett encourages voters to request their absentee ballots as soon as possible.

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