Early vote-counting hurdle cleared in Brown County, turnout in Codington County hits 63%

Brown County had some early challenges in the vote-counting process, but it wasn't anything the elections team at the auditor's office couldn't handle Tuesday night.

On the whole, things went well, according to local election officials. But one local race is so close it might be headed for a recount.

Auditor Lynn Heupel said her first time as Brown County's top election official went well. Of the county's active and inactive voters, about 53% participated in the election, she said, although that's a number she'd like to see higher. Of all who voted in Brown County, 5,639 cast early ballots, she said.

The South Dakota Secretary of State's Office shows voter turnout closer to 57.5%. But, Heupel said, the state's total uses only active voters. Voters who end up on the inactive list are eligible to vote, she said, they're just asked to update their voter registration forms before doing so.

More:Republicans Drew Dennert, Mike Gage, Mike Wiese elected to Brown County Commission

The Codington County election went smoothly, with no issues during the counting process, according to Auditor Cindy Brugman.

This year's voter turnout in Codington County was 63%, which is lower than 2020's turnout of 76%. Brugman said presidential elections often have higher voter turnouts. The ballot tally from all precincts was completed by 9 p.m. Tuesday, she said. Codington was one of South Dakota's first counties to have all of its ballots counted and totals on the secretary of state's website.

After serving as auditor for 20 years and working for Codington County for 45 years, Tuesday was Brugman's final election. Brenda Hanten will take the auditor's seat next year.

Voter turnout in local counties ranged from 47% to 68%

Statewide voter turnout was 59.3%, according to the secretary of state's office. That number varied from 47% to 68% in counties across the region. Voter turnout percentages determined by using active voters as tracked by the state follows.

  • Brown County: 57.5%

  • Codington County: 63.33%

  • Campbell County: 60.02%

  • Clark County: 63.99%

  • Day County: 64.62%

  • Deuel County: 66.87%

  • Edmunds County: 64.16%

  • Faulk County: 62.18%

  • Grant County: 67.97%

  • Hamlin County: 67.42%

  • Kingsbury County: 71.11%

  • Marshall County: 68.13%

  • McPherson County: 64.15%

  • Potter County: 64.89%

  • Roberts County: 57.84%

  • Spink County: 65.2%

  • Walworth County: 47.29%

More:Rohl, St. John and Donnell are winners in South Dakota Legislative District 1

Ballots stamped in wrong place cause early issue in Brown County

Early in the vote-counting process, multiple Brown County ballots weren't scanning through the ballot-counting machine that scans the ballots and compiles the results. Ballots that don't scan properly are separated by the machine and examined by a three-person election resolutions board. This can happen if the ballot isn't stamped properly or if the bubbles on the ballot aren't filled out correctly.

Right off, Heupel and the board couldn't see an issue with the ballots and thought the ballots might be missing marks along the edges. The marks helped the machine distinguish between the three ballots needed for the different legislative district races, she said. So, she said, the resolutions board duplicated the ballots so they could be scanned and added to the vote totals.

Senior Deputy Auditor Stephanie Jacobson said they eventually discovered the scanning issue had to do with the placement of the ballot stamp. Some of the stamps weren't in the proper spot, causing the scanning machine not to count them.

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Vote-counting wrapped up around midnight in Aberdeen, but Heupel said counting went until about 5:15 a.m. in Tripp County, where officials decided to hand-count the votes.

Hamlin County Commission race could be challenged

A Hamlin County Commission race was so close that it could be challenged.

Democratic incumbent Randall Rudebusch received 51% of the vote (295) for the District 1 commission seat compared to Jeffrey Shepherd's 49% (286).

More:Incumbents Myron Johnson and Lee Gabel win Codington County Commission races

Per state law, a losing candidate has three days to request a recount after the vote canvass is complete. In Hamlin County, the vote canvass was Wednesday morning. Candidates can request a recount if the race is within two percentage points.

Brown County auditor would like to offer more education about absentee voting

Heupel said she'd like to provide more education about the absentee ballot request process. If voters want a ballot mailed to them, she said, they have to fill out an application, which has to be processed before the ballot can be mailed out. One application can be made asking for all election ballots for the year, she said, or an application can be made for each election. But that takes time, so it's important to get the process started early, she said.

More:Auditor Cindy Brugman to retire after working 45 years for Codington County

Heupel was appointed as auditor earlier this year after Cathy McNickle resigned shortly after filing her nomination petitions for re-election. Heupel's appointment is through March. Commissioners are expected to extend that appointment for two years at that time.

Votes will be canvassed at 10 a.m. Monday in both Codington and Brown counties. Heupel said that's when commissioners will review the results and make any needed adjustments to include valid provisional ballots.

More:Republicans Hugh Bartels, Byron Callies elected to represent District 5 in state House

Provisional ballots are filled out by people who are not on the voter registration roll, but believe they are registered. In those cases, voters are able to fill out a provisional ballot, which is sealed in an envelope until voter registration can be verified. If that happens, their votes are added to the final results.

Watertown Public Opinion reporter Kerry Kulkarni contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Aberdeen News: Vote-counting in Brown and Codington counties goes well election night