In the two years following the contentious general election of 2000, the US Congress worked on a bill to improve the federal elections process. On October 29, 2002, calling it "a really good piece of legislation," President George W. Bush signed into law the Help America Vote Act of 2002.The Act provides federal money and guidance to improve the accuracy and fairness of voting in America. And while the Act intends to maintain self-governance at the local level, HAVA also mandates significant requirements. The Act sets specific deadlines over a four year period for states to comply. South Dakota has fulfilled all of HAVA's requirements.
HAVA requires each state to describe its use of Title II Section 251 payments from the federal government by writing a "state plan." A 17 member HAVA task force developed South Dakota's first state plan in the spring of 2003. The state plan was updated in December of 2004 as HAVA projects matured. Federal elections in 2006 demonstrated the completion of all phases of the state plan.
In March 2007, the Secretary of State certified to the EAC that South Dakota had fulfilled all Title III requirements. The State also notified the EAC that it intended to expand its use of Title II Section 251 funds for other improvements to the administration of federal elections as allowed by HAVA § 251(b)(2). The EAC notified the State that it must also revise its state plan to describe such use. The state plan was, therefore, revised in 2007 in a third version.
South Dakota's HAVA state plan was revised in a fourth version in June 2008, which described how the State intended to use the $575,000 payment appropriated to the State by the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2008.
The South Dakota state plan was revised in a fifth version to meet the requirements of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE). MOVE Section 588(b)(1)(A) requires states to amend their state plans to include,"How the State will comply with the provisions and requirements of the amendments made by the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act." This updated state plan includes additional information regarding the State's utilization of HAVA funds for additional personnel working on HAVA related projects and for meeting the requirements of HAVA Section 301(a)(4). The state plan is also revised to reflect how the State intends to use the $350,000 payment appropriated for the State of South Dakota in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2010.
Provisional Ballots: South Dakota instituted provisional ballots in 2003. A provisional ballot is a ballot which may be voted on by a person who appears at a polling place and swears that he or she is registered to vote in that precinct but whose name does not appear on the voter registration list for that precinct. The purpose of a provisional ballot is to protect a person's right to vote when his or her name has wrongly been omitted from the voter registration list. The provisional ballot is sealed in a special envelope which is not opened on election night. The provisional ballot is only counted if documentation can be located after election day proving that the person was properly registered to vote in that precinct. In the 2004 general election, 533 provisional ballots were collected; 66 of those ballots were counted. In the 2006 general election, 341 provisional ballots were collected; 90 of those ballots were counted.
Punch cards: HAVA provides funding to replace all punch card voting in South Dakota. 10 South Dakota counties used punch card voting in the 2000 general election. These counties now use optical scan ballots.
Voter Registration Forms: HAVA requires mail-in voter registration forms to contain two specific questions regarding citizenship and age. South Dakota began using new registration form in 2013.
Voter Instructions: HAVA encourages providing instruction to voters on how to properly complete their ballots and what to do when problems arise in the voting process. South Dakota now requires additional notices in newspapers prior to election day, posters in each polling place, and instructions on each ballot. Instructions to not vote for more candidates than are allowed reduced the over-vote rate by two-thirds from 2000 to 2004.
Voter Registration Verification: HAVA requires that each new voter registration be verified. South Dakota established a computer network to do this verification beginning in January 2004. Each voter registration is compared to felon records, death records, and drivers license or social security records to ensure that each registrant is eligible to vote in South Dakota.
Polling Place Access: HAVA provides funds for South Dakota counties to make physical improvements that advance independent accessibility into and at polling places for voters with various disabilities. Improvements include parking spaces, signs, curb changes, sidewalks, ramps, railings, doorways, platform lifts, and voting booths.
AutoMARK ballot assistant: HAVA requires that each polling place for any federal election provide a voting device equipped to allow voters with various disabilities the means to vote independently and privately. South Dakota has chosen the AutoMARK from Election Systems and Software.
The voter in South Dakota receives a paper optical scan ballot. The voter has the option to mark the ballot by hand or by use of the AutoMARK ballot assistant. The AutoMARK keeps no record of votes. It is a paper-based electronic ballot marker-an "electronic pen." Most voters find it to be intuitive and user-friendly.
The AutoMARK has special features to assist voters who are blind, have poor eyesight, can't hold a pen, or have other difficulties in voting a paper ballot. All ballots-whether voted by pen or by AutoMARK-go into the same ballot box.
When a ballot is inserted into the AutoMARK, an electronic version appears on the screen. The pictures of the ballot contests can be enlarged for easier reading, shown in reverse contrast, or turned off for privacy if a voter chooses to access the ballot by attached headphones and keypad. The audio description of the ballot can be used in place of or in conjunction with the visual version on the screen. The voter makes selections through the touch screen or keypad. (A voter may also bring an A/B switch to access the AutoMARK.)
The AutoMARK warns of undervotes and will not allow overvotes. The voter may make changes before the ballot is marked. The voter is provided a summary of selections. When the voter selects Mark Ballot, the appropriate ovals of the optical scan paper ballot are marked and the ballot is ejected. If a marked ballot is inserted into the AutoMARK, the touch screen will display and the headphones will describe the selections marked on that ballot. The voter takes the official paper ballot to the precinct ballot box for casting. A ballot privacy sleeve is provided to all voters.
For federal elections the AutoMARKs in the following two counties also include an audio version of the ballot in Lakota: Shannon and Todd.