Voting problems resurface in S.D.

David Melmer
10/27/04

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Eight people who worked for the South Dakota GOP to
register voters and fill out applications for absentee ballots have
resigned under allegations of fraud.

The state's college campuses were the target this time, not American Indian
reservations as was the case in 2002. Allegations have been leveled at the
state Republican organization concerning improper notarization of absentee
ballot applications.

It is required that the person accepting the absentee ballot request be a
notary and actually notarize the application. In thousands of cases on the
campuses, the person who notarized the application did so after it was
filled out, at a different location. And, the notary was not the same
person who took the application.

Larry Russell, the state's GOP Get Out The Vote director, resigned along
with five other GOP employees. He will be replaced by Herb Jones, the
manager of John Thune's 2002 Senate campaign. Thune is challenging Sen. Tom
Daschle in a heated race for the senate. The College GOP president and one
other volunteer also resigned in the face of the allegations.

Jeff Thune, nephew of John Thune got into the fray when he tried to
register voters and obtain applications for absentee ballots at South
Dakota State University. He told students that he was a notary public, a
requirement for an absentee ballot application. None of the absentee
applications bore his signature.

Secretary of State Chris Nelson said he didn't believe Thune did anything
illegal by not signing the applications. Nelson said his office would
attempt to find out what in fact had happened and the state's Attorney
General Larry Long said an investigation was under way.

The person who applies the seal to the application must be the same person
who witnesses the applicant's signature. It is riot required that the seal
be affixed in front of the applicant.

The incidents and investigations started just three weeks before the
election.

Sen. Tom Daschle said because of the degree and amount of documented
occurrences that someone should be held accountable.

Thune's campaign manager Dick Wadhams said he was concerned about integrity
in the process and was concerned about every vote counting.

Most every college in the state was affected by the alleged fraud. Private
colleges, such as Mount Marty in Yankton, had people ask students if they
wanted to apply for an absentee ballot.

What is at question now is how the county auditors will deal with the
applications. Some of the applications had already been processed, the
ballot sent to the applicant, filled out and returned. Some applications
may still be sitting on auditors' desks.

The state Republican Party sent out 14,000 letters to ask for a copy of the
photo ID of the person who submitted the absentee ballot request.

The June 1 special and primary election was fraught with accusations of
intimidation against American Indian community members because of a new
state law that required a photo ID to vote.

In 2002 Republicans accused Democrats of voter fraud. Irregularities in
registering and most recently with actual ballot tampering were part of the
allegations. In that election Sen. Tim Johnson defeated John Thune by 524
votes. The votes that came from the state reservations were considered the
votes that put Sen. Johnson into the win column. Allegations of fraud
occurred before the election, however, they increased afterward.

Recently Pat Robertson, former presidential candidate and avoi conservative
said on his Christian Broadcasting Network: "Without question, that's going
to be the most watched Senate race in the United States," alluding to the
Daschle/Thune race.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page