Media Contact

Janna Farley,

June 24, 2024

Rejecting 132 absentee ballots cast in Minnehaha County’s June 4 primary election based on mass eligibility challenges to the voters’ residency status violates state and federal law and violates the South Dakota and United States Constitutions. 

That’s what the ACLU of South Dakota said to the South Dakota Secretary of State, the Minnehaha County Auditor, Minnehaha County Commissioners and members of the Minnehaha County Recount Board in a letter emailed ahead of today’s recount in the Republican primary for a seat on the Minnehaha County Commission. Not counting these 132 ballots because they were cast by people who registered with an address affiliated with a mail-forwarding service is voter suppression – and that’s unacceptable. The candidates in that race were separated by merely 83 votes, fewer than the number of voters wrongfully disenfranchised by the county.

The ACLU of South Dakota urges the Minnehaha County Recount Board to count all unlawfully rejected ballots and asks that no voters will be removed from the voter registration rolls based on these unlawful challenges and that no improper challenges will be entertained during the Nov. 5 general election.

The following statement can be attributed to Samantha Chapman, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager.

“Voting is a fundamental right of our democracy. The decisions made in city halls, state legislatures, the United States Congress, and every other level of government affect the lives of all South Dakotans – whether they live here full-time or not.

“It’s no secret that some of our elected leaders have tried over the years to disenfranchise South Dakota’s ‘motor voters,’ as they’re sometimes called. But it’s vitally important that people be allowed to exercise their rights to vote and to travel or to work and live out of state – without repercussions to either.

“Maybe they’re full-time travelers. Maybe they’re working overseas. It doesn’t matter. If they are considered South Dakota residents, they have the right to vote. And they don’t lose that right just because they use a mail-forwarding service.

“South Dakota has been heralded as the freest state in the nation, but restricting access to one of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans – participating in our democracy through voting – strips residents of the freedom to take part in our elections. The ACLU of South Dakota is committed to protecting that.”

A copy of the letter sent by the ACLU (and also signed by the South Dakota League of Women Voters) is below.

About the ACLU of South Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.

The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people.  In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.