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South Dakota legislators to contemplate shortening early voting period

ABERDEEN, S.D. - Many area legislators believe allowing 46 days for early voting is excessive, but a proposal to limit the days to 14 is too short.

Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, and Rep. Karl Perry, R-Aberdeen, both sponsored the legislation, which has so far simply been referred to the House State Affairs committee for a hearing.

One constituent asked how legislators defend restricting early voting.

"Forty-six days for early voting, in my opinion, is too long," Perry said. "Fourteen days is what the bill said, but that's not the (among to time) we're stuck with."

Perry said the national average is 21 days, and he'd prefer an early voting period of 24 days.

Greenfield said 46 days seems like a long time and requires early ballot-printing. There are instances, he said, in which candidates want to change their mind about running, but can't because ballots are already printed.

"I would think we can probably figure out some middle ground," Greenfield said.

Early voting was one of several topics covered at Saturday's legislative cracker barrel at Northern State University featuring state lawmakers from districts 1, 2 and 3.

County auditors have already said a 14-day early voting window would create a time crunch. The longer time frame was created to allow overseas and military voters an opportunity to cast their ballots.

Rep. Kaleb Weis, R-Aberdeen said he agrees 46 days is too long, but wants to make sure to accommodate military and overseas voting.

Rep. Drew Dennert, R-Aberdeen, said one reason to reduce the early voting window is to avoid instances in which candidates have been unable to get on the ballot. That happened to Constitution Party members one year, he said. But he doesn't think 14 days is long enough.