Observing South Dakota polling places on Election Day

Minnehaha County, SD We're just a few days away from Election Day 2016 and as the day gets closer more people are heading to the polls early.

Many people in Minnehaha County waited 30 minutes to an hour to cast their ballots all day Friday.

“I was really happy actually to know that people were really taking it seriously, enough to come in and vote, even early. I can't imagine what it's going to be like on Election Day, so I think it's great,” Minnehaha County Voter Amber Thomas said.

While plenty of people are showing up early, most voters will wait until Election Day to make their voices heard; among them will be a special group of people whose job it is to make sure the election is being carried out fairly.

Polling places around the country are preparing for the potential to have more people hanging around the polls to simply watch the election process in action.

Throughout this campaign season, Donald Trump has encouraged his supporters to keep a close eye on the integrity of their local election process.

“People have been encouraged to look for discrepancies to see if things aren't right,” Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz said. “It’s transparent; we've got nothing to hide.”

In South Dakota, anyone can choose to stay at a polling location on Election Day.

“If everybody just respects the people who are in line getting ready to vote, we won't have any issues at all,” Litz said.

They just have to follow the state's guidelines for being a poll watcher or observer.

“If you are enthusiastic about your candidate or your cause, we would urge you to keep those opinions to yourself while you're in line,” Litz said.

People at the polls are not supposed to disrupt or influence voters; in fact, many poll watchers are working to ensure that doesn't happen.

“When it comes to poll watching, the party likes to focus on areas or places we've seen problems in the past, so in South Dakota, our Native American communities are where we've seen some instances where people are being turned away for whatever reason, so that’s an area we’ll continue to focus,” South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Leader Suzanne Jones-Pranger said.

And with the potential for more people observing the polls this year, election officials in South Dakota do have safety plans in place if a situation gets out of hand.

“We've gone through scenarios at election school and we brought it to everyone's attention,” Litz said. “Election workers are going to be a little more diligent about paying attention to the kinds of conversations that go on out there.”

And while Donald Trump is encouraging more supporters to watch the polls, we reached out to several South Dakota Republican leaders, but have not heard back to see if more people in our area are actually planning to observe the election process on Tuesday.

The South Dakota Democratic Party says they don't plan to have many poll watchers this year - but if anyone has issues voting, they do have a voter protection hotline at 844-464-4455.



 
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