- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

The bipartisan State Board of Elections on Monday backed a handful of proposed changes to South Dakota election law that, among other things, would give citizens and the secretary of state more power to review and challenge candidates’ nominating petition signatures.

The election law changes recommended by Republican Secretary of State Shantel Krebs would give citizens more time to challenge nominating petition signatures in court and would allow Krebs’ office to audit a random sample of voter signatures from statewide candidates. Krebs said the changes are part of her “aggressive” agenda for the 2015 legislative session that begins on Jan. 13.

The 2014 Republican U.S. Senate primary in South Dakota prompted some of the proposed changes, Krebs said. Authorities say candidate Annette Bosworth fraudulently attested to gathering voter signatures when she was really on a Christian mission trip to the Philippines. She’s charged with six counts each of perjury and filing false documents and is set to stand trial next month.

Krebs said she will discuss the proposed election law changes with legislative leaders from both parties to get their input.

In addition to overseeing elections, the secretary of state’s office also oversees business and administrative services, including managing public documents and legislative records and registering nonprofit and for-profit corporations.

Krebs wanted a jump on the looming session, so she took her oath of office early on Friday. An overhaul of the state’s campaign finance and lobbyist reporting systems is also in the works, and Krebs said she wants an office where “customer service is not the norm, it’s beyond expectation.” Krebs also wants to improve South Dakota’s corporate filing system.

Krebs said she wants to bring the state’s business climate for corporate filings in line with other hubs such as Nevada and Delaware. She said South Dakota’s tax levels are competitive with those centers, but state laws need to be overhauled to entice corporations -which can often be small businesses - to file here. Establishing a court system specific to corporations and reviewing South Dakota’s laws governing corporations will be crucial, Krebs said.

Krebs previously served a decade in the state Legislature before becoming secretary of state. She defeated three others in the November election to win the seat left open by fellow Republican Jason Gant, who didn’t seek re-election.

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