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Commissioners get pushback on audit agenda item

todayJune 18, 2024 4

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A request for information about the upcoming post-election audit in Minnehaha County veered into a group of residents who collectively said, or implied, the county board was against an audit or unwilling to be transparent.

“I just want to say to accuse of us of not being open…, (is not correct),” Commissioner Gerald Beninga said.

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Resident Michael Stangeland said the audit is needed for transparency which is something county auditor Leah Anderson has supported and worked for in her job. Others said, or implied, the county commission was not transparent and resistant to an audit.

The post-election audit was on Tuesday’s meeting agenda so commissioners could learn more about the process, Beninga said

“We agree on a post-election audit,” Commissioner Joe Kippley said. “We are here to see it through.”

“This is not a behind closed doors commission,” Commissioner Dean Karsky said.

The state of South Dakota has a new law that requires an audit of elections. The county must conduct the audit or it will be in violation of state law.

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Anderson provided information about the 100% hand count post-election audit that differed from reasons provided at the June 10 county election commission meeting. Anderson referred in a memo and her Tuesday presentation to what she said were apparent discrepancies in the 2020 vote count data. Her Tuesday meeting memo and her presentation said these discrepancies were a reason she wanted to do a hand count of 100% of all votes, races and precincts.

“You never mentioned this in the canvass meeting (June 10),” Commissioner Jean Bender said of 2020 data.

Anderson said that was correct.

Commissioners didn’t discuss the 2020 election vote data provided by Anderson much on Tuesday. Beninga and Kippley said took issue with the release of the information after the June 10 meeting and before Tuesday’s meeting. Beninga said he was not notified of Anderson’s 2020 information or her news release by Anderson.

Anderson said she was able to better study the analysis between June 10 and when she released it. She was not asked, and she did not say, who provided her with the election data analysis.

But, Anderson said, she did not have the full 2020 data to analyze because she’s been told retrieving those documents could be a violation of law. And that would take considerable time to get the documents and analyze them.

The 2020 election information aside, the commission did receive details from Anderson about the upcoming election audit.

The audit in Minnehaha County will differ from the state requirements because it will include a hand count of 100% of all votes in all races in all precincts. State law requires an audit of 5% of all precincts provided those precincts have 100 votes.

Anderson said at the June 10 county election commission meeting that she has the authority to hand count votes for the audit.

The audit will be conducted on Tuesday, June 25. It starts with training at 9 a.m. with the hand count audit to start at 10 a.m.

Anderson estimated it would take five hours to do the hand-count audit because that would include the training and breaks. The audit board would include 50 members and one supervisor.

The board’s make up is 24 Republicans and 27 non-Republicans that include Independents, Democrats and others, Anderson said.

If all 50 board members were paid $18 an hour for five hours, the audit cost would be $4,500, Anderson said.

The state provides reimbursement for a 5% precinct audit so Anderson said she’s not sure how much money that will be.

But the cost of the audit should be lower than $4,500 since many of the board members have said they do not want to get paid, Anderson said. She would need board members to complete the proper paperwork so it would be legal to not pay them.

In another election matter, there will be recount in three races, Anderson said. The presiding judge of the federal 2nd Judicial Circuit, Robyn Houwman, has appointed a recount board. The recount will be on June 24.

Written by: The Dam Rock Station

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