Deadlines are quickly approaching for the November general election.

Oct. 19 is the last day to register to vote in South Dakota. Nov. 2 is the last day to request an absentee ballot in South Dakota. With a strong voter turnout expected, these are important dates for Lake County residents to keep in mind.

In 2016, Lake County had 10,129 registered voters and a 68.7% voter turnout for the presidential election. This was slightly below the 69.2% voter turnout recorded statewide and significantly above 55% turnout reported nationally.

This year, Lake County has 8,491 registered voters, according to the South Dakota Secretary of State's website. Of these, 4,194 are Republican, 2,390 Democrat, 1,869 Independent and 38 registered in other parties. The county also has 1,366 inactive voters.

The difference between the two years can be attributed, in part, to the closure of My Dakota Address, according to Lake County Auditor Paula Barrick. The mail service on Center Street was widely used by individuals who live in recreational vehicles and chose to establish residency in South Dakota.

Inactive voters, Barrick explained, are those who have not voted in the last two general elections. They are not banned from voting in this election.

"You certainly can vote, but when you go to the precinct, you need to fill out a new voter registration form," she said.

Barrick has seen one trend during this election cycle that she has not seen in previous years. Registered voters are switching political parties.

"They're switching to Independent," Barrick said. "We have quite a few doing that. It's been interesting."

According to the Secretary of State's website, individuals may register to vote at a variety of locations, including the auditor's office, city finance office, driver's license station when renewing or applying for a driver's license, and public assistance agencies. To be eligible, in addition to being at least 18 years old on or before Election Day, individuals must be U.S. citizens residing in South Dakota.

Felony convictions and mental competence are also factors in determining eligibility. More information regarding these situations is available on the Secretary of State's website.

The simple voter registration form requests address, date of birth and South Dakota driver's license number or the last four digits of the individual's Social Security number. Barrick said her office is receiving registration forms daily.

As of Tuesday morning, 1,486 registered voters have cast absentee ballots in Lake County, Barrick indicated. In addition, 709 ballots mailed to voters have not yet been returned.

Not all voters who received ballots by mail may intend to vote absentee. Earlier this year, in response to the COVID pandemic, the Secretary of State's office mailed forms to all registered voters which allowed them to request absentee ballots. Those who marked "All" or "General" and returned the forms received ballots, but they are not required to use those ballots.

"They can go to the polls. We're asking they shred that [absentee] ballot," Barrick said.

The Secretary of State is requesting that ballots mailed to voters be shredded rather than completed and taken to the polls as a COVID-related precaution, she explained.

Based on the number of absentee ballots received three weeks prior to Election Day, Barrick is expecting Lake County to have a strong voter turnout. She said that is not uncommon during a presidential election year.

"Maybe people are more involved, more ready to do their patriotic duty and cast that ballot," she theorized.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 3. The polling places are listed on the Lake County Auditor's website. Due to the COVID pandemic, the polling place for Precincts 5, 6 and 7 has been changed to the Lake County 4-H Center.

Voters are required to show proof of identification. In addition to a valid South Dakota driver's license, voters can use a passport, government photo ID, Armed Forced ID, current student photo ID or tribal photo ID. In lieu of this, voters can sign a personal identification affidavit and vote, according to the Secretary of State's website.

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