UPDATE: this is a questionable practice for absentees

When I voted on Tuesday, I noticed City Clerk Denise Tucker stuffing envelopes with ballots, I thought it was kind of strange because I figured they would have already been sent out. Apparently not;

Absentee ballots weren’t mailed until Tuesday, a full two weeks after Paul TenHaken and Jolene Loetscher claimed the top two spots in the mayoral contest and Zach DeBoer and Curt Soehl beat out a crowded field in the City Council Central District to face off in the May 1 election.

“Technically, they can go earlier, but we didn’t have our ballots back and ready to go,” said City Clerk Tom Greco. The ballots are printed by a vendor in Minnesota.

By Wednesday afternoon, 736 ballots had been mailed, Greco said.

These are the kind of things happen when you have a (Uncertified) City Clerk running our elections. So if you live in California for the winter, good luck.

Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz said the city’s election laws are different than the state law he operates under. In state elections, he is required to offer absentee ballots 45 days prior to an election. Typically, the regular city election has a 15-day window.

“With the runoff it got scrunched by the time we got our programming and ballots back from the vendor,” Litz said.

They could have easily printed off 700 paper ballots on April 11 and hand counted them when they returned. If it is a close race, which I think the Central District council race will be, 736 missing ballots is not good.

While probably a majority of the ballots are mailed to people in Sioux Falls (I hope so) it surely puts the snowbirds at a disadvantage. But I have always been of the opinion you should have to live in South Dakota at least 10 months out of the year to qualify as a resident. If you are just using your SF address as a way to get out of paying a state income tax while living in California, you don’t deserve to vote for our mayor and city council anyway.

UPDATE: I’m also not buying the tw0-week turnaround at the printer. As a person who has worked in printing for over 25 years, there is such a thing as a RUSH. The printer could have easily knocked out the needed 736 ballots and overnighted them to SF within 3-4 days after April 10th.

I am also concerned that if the council race or mayor’s race is within 100-200 votes and half the absentee ballots never came back by Tuesday there could be some lawyers involved. And while that whole mess plays out guess who gets to remain as mayor? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

My immediate suggestion would be for the council to delay the election by one week and hold it on May 8th.



12 comments ↓

#1 Darren Weisz on 04.26.18 at 11:19 am

…and thanks for keeping the printing local #sarcasm

#2 anominous on 04.26.18 at 11:41 am

🙁 Real bummer about the cost of Fedex. I just assumed the Kirbies had their own special set of pneumatic tubes from California to South Dakota for sending in their ballots.

#3 Lincoln County Delegate on 04.26.18 at 2:33 pm

Whoever wins on May 1st should fire Tom Greco immediately. This is unacceptable.

#4 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.26.18 at 4:37 pm

A Gutenburg press could have gotten this done quicker…

#5 Bruce on 04.26.18 at 5:10 pm

Remember the city election of 2014 when we took Sioux Falls to Court almost causing a delay? The b ballot printer in North Carolina was ready to reprint overnight so the election could go on as scheduled.

Anything else said about the delay is incompetent or just plain screwed up. We proved quick turnaround is possible if you need or want it. Anything.

#6 TE on 04.26.18 at 8:33 pm

You should educate yourself on what it takes to get ready for an election. The vendor that prints the ballots also has to program the media used in the tabulators on election night to count the ballots. Also they need to program the media used in the machines that are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) so that people who can’t mark the oval on the ballot have a way of casting a ballot in private. The vendor needs to get the information, program a media, send it to the customer, the customer makes sure the names are pronounced correctly, and then give the okay so in the case of the city election 53 USB sticks can be programmed and sent back so there is a machine at each polling place.

There aren’t just two different ballots for this election one for the people voting just for mayor and one for people voting for mayor and central district, there is a different ballot for each precinct. You as a person who has worked in the printing business should know that this will take longer.

The sample of the media and the ballot have to be run through whichever tabulation equipment the customer is running to make sure the media is programmed right and the ballot is printed right. This is all done on machines they have at their site. This all takes time and the city staff and the vendor, I can tell you, are doing this as fast as possible without any errors.

Also think about this, the vendor is also doing this for other customers too. Some of these customers are also getting ready for their primary elections at this time too. Let’s see, that means that they are getting all the ballots and media for South Dakota and Iowa for their primary on June 5 and North Dakota primary, which is the next week June 12. I can tell you this vendor is very reliable and take their job very serious.

So you want to go back to the good old days of hand counting ballots, then it will take days for the results to come out. Not sure if you as a media outlet, as you so often remind us, and the other media outlets would go for that. Don’t know what the people with the cameras would do on election night as they can’t put the camera over the person’s shoulder who is trying to run the tabulation machines, making them nervous. I would think with all the slams you have done about elections in the past you would be better educated.

#7 l3wis on 04.26.18 at 8:40 pm

While you talk about all the time this takes, you are forgetting two important things;

1) Wasn’t asking the company to print all of the ballots, just 736 so that they could get mailed out. That could be accomplished.

2) And as Bruce has pointed out in 2014, how was it a printing company was ready to roll in 24 hours to print ballots if a date had to be changed?

3) As a person who has worked in printing and worked with campaigns and elections, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE if you talk to the right people.

But feel free to keep making excuses.

#8 Stiles Bitchley on 04.26.18 at 8:42 pm

How about instead of delaying the entire election a week we allow an additional week for absentee ballots to be returned? Or two weeks? It is most likely that the races will be determined by a number significantly higher than the 736 outstanding absentee ballots so it is most likely a moot point. PTH had a vote advantage of nearly 3,000 votes on 4/10. That gap will most likely triple on 5/1.

The ham-handed ineptitude of the City Clerk’s office should not be excused and there should be some house cleaning done. But let’s not get too carried away with a race that is already over.

Now the Central District council race might be tighter and could come down to those 736 absentee ballots but we can burn that bridge when we come to it. Allow an extra week or two as a provisional measure. It won’t be necessary but it doesn’t hurt to have the extension in place.

#9 l3wis on 04.26.18 at 8:58 pm

Stiles, I would agree. I had that thought this afternoon. Keep the election as scheduled and see what kind of return there is on absentee ballots, and if necessary, delay reporting results for at least 7 days until those ballots have a chance to come in. I think you are right, the mayor’s race may not be close, but Central District could be. It also depends on how many absentee ballots mailed out were for Central district. Something to watch Tuesday night for sure.

As for the house cleaning. Don’t get me started.

#10 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.26.18 at 9:54 pm

“….and the other media outlets would go for that…”

That’s an interesting comment by TE, because there has been unfortunately an evolution in our elections where the holding of elections and the counting of ballots is increasingly driven by a willingness to facilitate the media and the candidates over the needs and rights of the vote.

Because our electoral system should first be concerned about facilitating the voters before they worry about the needs of the media and the vote counters when it comes to elections. But unfortunately there is this complacency and willingness among powers that be to change our electoral process all to help those who have a greater interest in reporting and documenting an event from a mere marketability standpoint, instead of those who actually produce it and whose event it belongs to, the voters.

#11 l3wis on 04.26.18 at 10:24 pm

I also find it ironic that we have known about this runoff date for almost a year, yet no one bothered to have a convo with the printer that they may need the absentee ballots right away. The one thing I tell my sales staff all the time; have conversations with your clients about upcoming print projects and mailings so we can set a schedule. Doesn’t always happen, but we also aren’t running a democracy with fair and equal elections.

#12 The Guy from Guernsey on 04.27.18 at 6:46 am

Will Tom Greco and his employment as City Clerk be able to survive this, yet another faux paux?
You can disenfranchise some of the people all of the time. You know, those pesky gadflies.
But, if you only once disenfranchise certain individuals, you will be gone. Immediately. He may have disenfranchised the correct, “certain individuals” in order to be dismissed from his position.
And, he won’t have HisManMike, Church Lady, nor Lamb Chop Rolfing to run interference on his behalf anymore.