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South Dakota: Here's How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts in the 2020 Election

What you need to know, including key deadlines, registration details, and how to vote by mail.

Grace Han/Thrillist

Election Day is somehow ages away and at the same time right around the corner. It seems like every day we’re bombarded with conflicting information about how to vote, when to vote, voting in-person and by mail, and more. It’s enough to make your head spin, but voting doesn’t have to be a confusing and chaotic process. Now’s the time to start thinking about voting and making a plan for casting your ballot on November 3.

Confusion and lack of information keep people away from the polls every year. With this election year more unusual than any we’ve seen before we don’t want anyone to be swayed from voting because they didn’t know what to do to get the job done. Voting is so important and everyone deserves to have their voice heard. 

Here’s what you need to know -- like when and how to register to vote, in-person and by-mail voting information, and more. 

What is the deadline to register to vote in South Dakota?

In South Dakota, you must register to vote by October 19.

Not sure if you’re registered? Check your voter status here.

How to register to vote in South Dakota

The quickest and easiest way to register to vote in South Dakota is to pop into your local County auditor’s office, driver’s license station, City Finance Office, military recruitment office, or the Department of Human Services office. You may also register to vote at any public assistance agency that provides food stamps, TANF, or WIC. 

If you don’t feel comfortable registering in-person, you can visit this website to download the Voter Registration Form. You’ll need to fill it out, sign it, and submit it to your County Auditor. That form must be received no later than the October 19 registration cutoff and cannot be submitted by fax or email.

Can I vote early in South Dakota? When does South Dakota’s early voting start?

South Dakota does offer early voting. This process is called absentee in-person voting and requires registered voters to visit polling locations in their area to cast their ballot. The early voting period in South Dakota runs from September 18 to November 2. Dates and hours may vary depending on where in South Dakota you live.

In-person absentee voting takes place at your county auditor’s office. To vote early, you must bring a valid photo ID and must sign a personal identification affidavit, and vote using a regular ballot. 

Voting early is a great way to avoid long lines at polling places on Election Day.

Can I vote by mail in South Dakota?

Yes. The first step is, of course, to request an absentee ballot by filling out the application if you did not already receive one in the mail. Make sure the application is complete before submitting and make sure you get it in ASAP. The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail in South Dakota is November 2, meaning your request needs to reach your local election office by that date. Definitely don’t delay; get you application in ASAP. 

You can request an absentee ballot here. If you’d prefer to mail your absentee ballot application, you can find that here. The form must be printed, completed, and mailed well before the November 2 deadline.

How to vote absentee by mail in South Dakota

Once you receive your absentee ballot, you’ll need to review the ballot and instructions carefully. Mark it with your choices clearly and return the completed ballot in the envelopes provided. If you make a mistake on your ballot, you can request a new one (another reason not to wait to get this done!).

Absentee ballots must be back in the mail within 24 hours of completion. Each ballot will require postage. According to the South Dakota Secretary of State’s instructions, one ballot will require about three stamps. If you can’t pay that, you can get in touch with the ACLU, which will help ensure you’re able to vote.

Once you’ve mailed in your ballot, check the status at aclusd.org/ballot-status. If after a week there is no update on the status of your mail-in ballot, follow up.

Mail-in ballots may also be dropped at a Division of Elections office if that’s easier or you’re worried you won’t have your ballot in the mail before the deadline. 

Can I track my absentee ballot? How can I be sure it’s counted?

You can track your South Dakota absentee ballot by visiting this portal. You can also track it here via this tool created by the ACLU.

How can I stay safe while voting in person?

In South Dakota, polling places are open from 7am to 7pm time on Election Day. You can find your local polling place here.
 
Voting by mail or voting early in person are the best ways to be sure you’re safe when voting in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, but there are ways to reduce your risk of getting sick in person, too. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued a number of tips to keep voters safe as they exercise their right to vote on November 3. 

Here's a rundown of what the CDC recommends, per its official election guidance page:

  • Wear a mask.
  • Stay at least six feet from others at all times.
  • Wash your hands before and after leaving your polling place.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol regularly while inside the polling place. 
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your elbow. Throw all tissues away inside lined garbage cans and then sanitize your hands once more.
  • Avoid disinfecting the voting machine or equipment yourself as you may end up damaging them with cleaners or disinfectants. Use sanitizer before and after touching the machine instead.
  • Try to visit your polling place during less busy times. This may mean making more than one trip to the polling place to check out lines.
  • Ensure that you’re registered to vote before you leave home and bring with you any documents or identification you will need. 
  • Bring a black ink pen with you for marking your ballot, but check with a poll worker before using it to make sure it’s OK.
  • Review the ballot before you vote so you know who and what you’re voting for when you get there and can be in and out quickly. 

Additional South Dakota voting resources

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Caitlyn Hitt is Daria IRL. Don't take our word for it -- find her on Twitter @nyltiaccc.