Beadle County completes inaugural election audit

By Benjamin Chase of the Plainsman
Posted 6/14/24

Legislation sponsored by local State Senator receives first trial run Wednesday

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Beadle County completes inaugural election audit


HURON — Wednesday afternoon, in the commission room on the second floor of the Beadle County courthouse, a first-of-its-kind event was taking place in Beadle County, a post-election audit.

During the 2023 legislative session, District 22 Senator David Wheeler of Huron was the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 160, which established county-level post-election audits across the state.

The legislation, now codified as South Dakota Codified Law 12-17B-21, was put into effect this year for elections, meaning the primary election held on Tuesday, June 4, was the first qualifying election to have an audit done since its passage.

With the general election this year including multiple ballot measures as well as a presidential election, Beadle County auditor Jill Hanson expressed that the primary audits held in Beadle and other counties around the state would “work out the kinks” of the post-election audit process before the significantly more intricate ballots to work with in November.

Five Beadle residents offered three hours of their time to complete the audit, which reviewed two precincts within the county, making up a little more than 200 votes. Each precinct needed to have at least 100 votes to audit, to meet the standard of the law, but the first precinct that was randomly drawn by Hanson on June 6 during the canvass of the election was too small to meet the 100-vote requirement, so a second precinct was added.

Wheeler participated in the audit, noting that with his name on the November ballot, he cannot participate in an audit this fall, but he wanted to see how the process worked in order to potentially - if re-elected - take back any modifications to the legislation to Pierre based on in-person experience.

The audit participants completed the smaller of the two precincts first, finding no discrepancies between their count and the count that the voting machine had for that precinct. However, when doing the manual count of the larger of the two precincts, the two that were tallying ballots came up with idential numbers, which were short of the machine numbers for that precinct.

This led to a recount of all the ballots again to ensure correct numbers, with the numbers ultimately matching with the machine count.

Hanson relayed that finding audit workers and election workers is difficult, especially due to the requirement that representatives from both parties need to be present to meet state statute.

Election workers and audit workers are financially compensated. If you would like to offer your time to an upcoming election, contact Hanson at the auditor’s office, 605-353-8400.