Rapid City tries to push for voter suppression, foiled for now

As we all know, in Sioux Falls, this has already occurred due to a quiet decision by the school board a few years ago. They tried to do it in RC and got caught;

In February 2019, Rapid City police chief Karl Jegeris and School Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon met privately with Pennington County’s new Auditor, Cindy Mohler, and directed her to find new polling places for the ten voting precincts that currently use public schools. The elected School Board members were never informed or consulted as to this change of policy, learning about it eight months later when it—along with all elements of this story—was revealed in greater detail by the Rapid City Journalin its November 3 and November 19 editions.

As you know in Sioux Falls, not only have they eliminated polling places at most schools, they went to super precincts where they pretty much eliminated the entire Northern part of the city for the $300 school bond issue. So here is a little tidbit of interest;

No school shootings or violent incidents in connection with a polling place anywhere in America have been documented.

Yet we are often told this is about the ‘safety’ of the ‘children’. Hogwash! This has been about voter suppression. When you don’t have a precinct in the entire Northern part of your voting district, that speaks volumes of the intent, but they fall back on the excuse ‘What about the kids?’

Most Rapid City voters drive to the polls, and roughly one-third vote early at the Auditor’s office. Some low-income people lack transportation, and walk to the polls or depend on a ride to get there. If a large percentage of voters are suddenly re-directed to a new, less accessible polling place, there is the fear that a lower turnout will result.

And that is what has happened. The SFSD has devised a way to get the people who can afford a property tax increase to the polls and eliminating those who may be opposed. It’s a brilliant scheme. It also gives them the excuse to hand count ballots as a cost savings measure and instead of using mostly volunteers they used employees who work in the finance office. But RC said, no way!

At two Rapid City School Board meetings in November, citizens from across the political spectrum, myself among them, pleaded with the board to allow voting to continue at the schools. Rep. Tina Mullally (R-Rapid City), described the proposed change as voter suppression. Her colleague, Rep. Tony Randolph (R-Rapid City), commented on the negative “optics” of removing voting from the schools at the same time that a $189 million bond issue (the largest per capita school bond issue in South Dakota history) is coming before local voters. Several speakers pointed out that, at a time when schools are teaching less “civics” and students are graduating without a strong understanding of government and democracy, watching adults come to their schools to exercise their franchise can be a positive experience. Ramona Herrington, a local Native American activist, commented that she could not believe that she was on the same side of the issue as the ultraconservative Citizens for Liberty.

This outpouring of support led board members to adopt a resolution sponsored by Curt Pochardt in support of leaving polling places in the schools.

I have often said it is a sad time in our democracy when we have to constantly sneak around to figure out what our elected officials are up to behind closed doors. Voting rights are the highest level of an open and transparent government. Rapid City dodged a bullet – for now. It looks like they are going to try to do a reach around with the County Commission. I feel that the ones pushing for a school bond in RC saw the immense opportunity to only get those they wanted voting for the bond to the polls. They saw the soviet like election results in Sioux Falls and how they pulled it off. I guess the other school districts in South Dakota do learn things from us 🙁

1 comment so far ↓

#1 "Very Stable Genius" on 12.01.19 at 2:27 pm

It’s hard to believe that we beat Pennington County to voter suppression, but it is further proof that moderate and left of center – but parochial (regardless of religion or not) – educationalists are smarter than right wing reactionaries.

( – and Woodstock adds: “I am glad you clarified ‘parochial'”….. “You can’t blame the Catholics for everything, that’s something a reactionary from Pennington might do though”…..)