The fight for voting rights remains as critical as ever. South Dakota politicians have historically engaged in voter suppression tactics that included adding obstacles to registration, cutting back on early voting, and pushing unnecessary voter identification requirements. That’s why it’s so important for people to get more involved in the political process.
Whether it’s volunteering with nonprofit and nonpartisan organizations, driving friends to the polls, or signing up to be a precinct worker, every effort has impact.
We spoke to folks in South Dakota who are passionate about being involved in local politics. Over the next few months, we’re highlighting their stories on our We the People blog series to show how everyone has the ability to change their community for the better. Brittany Neiles spent time as a precinct worker in Sioux Falls during the 2020 primary election and shared their experience with us to educate their peers on the process. Neiles is an avid trail runner, mountain biker, skier, and yogi from the Sioux Falls area.
What made you want to get involved in the political process in South Dakota?
I’ve been involved in over a dozen campaigns in South Dakota, though I was much more active in college. I was one of the many out of work and it happened to fall over the primary. I figured it was my opportunity to do something productive.
When did you first hear about the opportunity to volunteer as a precinct worker?
I’ve wanted to be a poll worker for years, I just hadn’t ever taken the leap to do it.
Any major takeaways from your first-time volunteering?
It was a long day—over 14 hours—and that was just a primary. People came in waves, but there were minimal lines. The primary was during the time of COVID, so all of the poll workers (well most) wore their mask, and a ton of voters—probably over half—had them on. There were many voters, representing both parties, with a nod and smile to say their peace. They each voted and moved on. The day went smoothly and without event, which is what I was hoping for!
Would you recommend volunteering as a precinct worker to your peers?
I absolutely recommend working at the polls if you can. Poll workers are usually elderly. Just ask yourself, "Have I seen many younger poll workers at your polling location? or poll workers that look like me?" Between Covid and the expansion of the use of technology at the polls, it is essential that a new generation rises to the occasion.
Why do you think it is important for people to vote and be involved in the political process?
Decisions are made by those who show up and nearly 100 million people failed to show up in 2016. Holding free and fair elections is paramount to any democracy, but that’s being threatened more and more. I know that by being a poll worker, everyone will feel welcomed and safe enough to cast their ballot.
What would you tell someone who thinks their vote doesn’t matter?
Voting is one of the easiest way to be politically active. You don’t have to talk to anyone and no one has to know who you voted for. Once you vote, that’s pretty much it. It’s hard to imagine someone not being negatively affected by the politics over the last four years. If not you, then probably someone you are close with. If not someone who you know then just look around you and observe.
What’s your 2020 General Election Day plan?
I’m unsure of my 2020 Election Day plan at the moment, but I hope to be a poll worker again. Once the polls close, I plan on pouring myself a craft beer, putting on a cozy sweatshirt, and hiding out alone until the results come in.
If you're ready to take the next step and sign up to be an Election Day Precinct Worker, email your County Auditor today! Then follow up with a phone call if you don't hear back within a week.