Absentee voting is under way for June 2 elections

LAKE COUNTY voters have returned hundreds of absentee-ballot applications for the June 2 primary and local elections to the county Auditor's Office. Bobbi Janke, county auditor, is asking voters planning to absentee vote in person at the courthouse to set up an appointment for social-distancing purposes.

The Lake County Auditor's Office reported a "good response" so far from area voters in returning absentee ballot applications to county officials in preparation for the June 2 primary and local government elections.

The Auditor's Office and South Dakota Secretary of State cooperated in late April to send out absentee-ballot applications to registered voters across the state. Absentee voting for the state's June 2 primary started on April 17.

Madison-area voters will also vote for city commission and school board candidates on June 2.

Included with the absentee-ballot applications and instruction letters were postage-paid envelopes to return the completed forms to the Auditor's Office.

According to Bobbi Janke, Lake County auditor, her office had received 159 absentee-ballot applications by April 27, and a few more applications arrived on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the returned applications totaled 424, and the office received several more applications on Thursday. On Friday, another 149 applications arrived by mail.

To successfully obtain an absentee ballot, voters are asked to follow the directions in the letter from the secretary of state which include completing the forms, attaching a copy of a photo ID or having the form notarized. The postage-paid envelopes are addressed to the Lake County Auditor in Madison.

Voters can print or email a copy of their photo ID to lakeauditor@lake.sd.gov. Election officials will place absentee ballots in the mail after the forms are submitted.

While Secretary of State Steve Barnett and local election officials are encouraging absentee voting by mail, due to social-distancing policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic, absentee voting in person at the Lake County Courthouse is also available. Election officials posted "Vote Here" signs at the front and rear entrances of the courthouse.

To follow social-distancing guidelines, Janke asks that voters wanting to cast their absentee ballots at the courthouse contact her office beforehand so groups are kept to a minimum.

"We'd like to spread out the visits," Janke said. "We encourage people to call first so we can keep (voter) numbers manageable."

To make an appointment, voters are asked to call 256-7600 or email lakeauditor@lake.sd.gov. The election office at the courthouse is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The courthouse will close on May 25 for Memorial Day.

When casting an absentee ballot at the courthouse, voters are asked to bring a photo ID. If voters do not provide a photo ID, they will need to sign a personal-identification affidavit.

In the primary election, the Republican Party ballot includes races for U.S. senator, U.S. representative and county commissioners. The Democratic Party ballot only contains a primary race between presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden despite Sander's suspension of his campaign. The Democratic Party primary is open to registered Democrats and independent and nonparty-affiliated voters.

The Auditor's Office will also handle the ballots for the Madison City Commission and Madison School Board elections.

On June 2, Lake County polling places will open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.