- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, June 10

State, county need to clean up election ‘mess’

“It was a mess, and I apologize to the candidates, to election workers, and, most importantly, to voters.” - Pennington County Auditor Julie Pearson

Apologies - while always nice - just aren’t enough sometimes.

On Tuesday, the Pennington County Auditor’s Office and the Secretary of State’s Office presided over an election that was marred by enough mistakes to shake the confidence of a public that can only wonder how it was handled so poorly.

It started first thing in the morning. Due to difficulties with relatively new technology and exacerbated by the absence of a back-up plan, poor communication, and toothless support from the state, voters were turned away in Rapid City and told to come back later.

The initial culprit was the new e-poll book made by BPro, an electronic software company from Pierre. It failed to work properly in the eight counties it was used, including in Pennington where the election stumbled out of the gate.

While voting officials in the seven other counties were able to overcome the issues with the e-poll books, it was a different story here. Election workers were unprepared for the technology problems and unable to respond to puzzled voters who in some cases were told to call the county auditor’s office for help. Media outlets quickly learned, however, that those calls would shed little light on the developing situation.

A call to the Secretary of State’s Office about whether the voters should be issued provisional ballots added another layer of confusion, something that may have been averted if Secretary of State Shantel Krebs wasn’t busy with her own election, a failed bid to win the Republican nomination for the U.S. House.

The delays and confusion could have been averted, however, if the auditor’s office had provided printouts of registered voters to back up the e-poll books, which were being used for only the second time in the county. The initial use was for the special election on water rates, which had an extremely low voter turnout.

Later, the auditor’s office told the Journal that it decided to save money by not printing out voter registration rolls. It later would rush to print them out, but by then voters had already been turned away. The Secretary of State’s Office, meanwhile, said it could only recommend that counties using the new e-poll books print out voters rolls as a backup.

As the evening approached and after voting hours were extended, the results on the Secretary of State’s website did not reflect the numbers totaled by the county auditor’s office. According to the county, many of the problems that occurred later in the day were attributed to human error.

The problems that happened on Election Day can all be attributed to human error if preparation is considered. It’s clear no Plan B was in place in the event the e-poll books malfunctioned and that no plan was prepared to notify the public of problems. The failure of the Secretary of State’s to be more helpful and its confusion on the use of provisional ballots contributed to an inexcusable disenfranchisement of voters.

The time to correct these problems should start now as the general election is just five months away. Krebs needs to meet with county auditors and develop a policy that will prevent these problems in November. It should start with the guarantee that every county using e-poll books will have printed voter registrations at each precinct and a communication plan.

It would be the first step toward restoring faith in the state’s elections, which is essential. What happened on Tuesday was a mess that needs to be cleaned up.


American News, Aberdeen, June 12

Red Rooster Coffee House is a city hub, and deserves real support

After 21 years in the same familiar location, an Aberdeen icon is looking for a new place to call home.

The owners of the Red Rooster Coffee House are planning a move from their familiar roost, 202 S. Main St., because of repairs to the henhouse - or, the Citizens Building.

In a variety of ways, the Red Rooster has given the community a home of its own and unique things to do. The business’s service goes beyond great coffee, a soft couch and a good read.

That’s just one reason why ensuring the Rooster stays in business and stays where it’s viable, sought out and loved is something that can and should be backed by the city and community members.

The Rooster serves as an anchor downtown Aberdeen. People know where it is, and they know they can go there for just about anything. It’s an oasis for people of all kinds, shapes, sizes, ages and demographics.

The Red Rooster is a community within a community - and just saying that is an understatement.

That should be rewarded.

The Red Rooster has long supported the community, and a downtown whose residents don’t always have a place to call “home” when they aren’t at home.

A quick look at what the Red Rooster does for the community - its annual Art and Bike Spectacle, the various bands, performers, speakers, comedians, solo musicians and others it gives a stage to, the Fallout Creative Community, its support of the Fischgaard Film Festival and the Better Ride band, to name just a few Rooster-based projects - and it’s easy to see what a hole our city and its culture would have without that Main Street coffee shop.

But Citizens Building owner Travis Kiefer said he needs to remodel the space in order to get everything up to code, including wiring, plumbing, and all the behind-the-sheetrock things. He’s been remodeling the entire building piece by piece, floor by floor, since he purchased it in 2015.

The Red Rooster would likely stay put if its owners - Dan Cleberg and Kileen Cleberg Limvere - felt that was an option. But those planned renovations to the Citizens Building would change its look and feel, among other things.

Sure, there are other buildings downtown, waiting to be rented. But those, too, would require some updates - and maybe a little more to get that eclectic Red Rooster feel that makes everyone comfortable and welcome.

Those buildings also come at a cost.

Let’s put a bit of perspective on this.

Every June, the Aberdeen City Council reviews requests for the promotion fund, which is comprised of revenue from the city’s 1 percent bed, board and booze tax. Local groups and agencies apply for money from the promotion fund.

Those groups often deserve help for the good work they do.

Meanwhile, a business such as the Red Rooster is clearly a quality-of-life driver for the Hub City. We believe that, just by doing its job and doing it well, the Rooster has been a motivator for those transplants to Aberdeen.

That’s promoting our city.

While the Rooster has not asked for any help, at least as far as we know, someone - anyone - should recognize the important need this business fills.

Dan Cleberg said since announcing that a move was imminent the business had received a lot of support, surrounded by a feeling of sadness.

We feel that too.

It’s time to rally behind the Rooster by throwing whatever kind of real support we can behind it - as a community and a city.

The one thing that should never be an option is losing the Red Rooster Coffee House, and all that it stands for, all together.


The Public Opinion, Watertown, June 15

Thumbs up, thumbs down

Weekly papers win open meetings complaint - Thumbs Up

As members of the media, we strongly believe in transparency and rules in order to keep the general public informed when it comes to important decisions being made.

Two weekly newspapers did their part recently to ensure organizations are following those rules.

Andy Wilcox of the Canton Sioux Valley News and Molly McRoberts of the Gettysburg Potter County News each won court cases last week. Both editors had their cases heard before the South Dakota Open Meetings Commission.

Wilcox had filed a complaint against the Canton City Commission for conducting official business via email outside of the requirements of the open meetings law.

McRoberts had filed a complaint against the Potter County Commission for conducting business after it had adjourned a meeting.

We say good job to the two newspapers for shedding a light on some misbehavior.

Looking at Lake Kampeska’s future - Thumbs Up

Most citizens of Watertown and the surrounding community will agree that Lake Kampeska is an asset to be treasured. With that in mind, it was pleasant to see a public input meeting held Friday night for anyone wishing to express their desires when it comes to a master plan for the lake’s future.

The lake has been a priority for Mayor Sarah Caron and Upper Big Sioux River Watershed Project Coordinator Roger Foote and plans involving the lake shouldn’t be taken lightly. Opinions may vary greatly about what’s the best route to take when it comes to improving the lake but we feel the more opinions offered, the better.

Bald eagles get second chance - Thumbs Up

Thanks to the staff at Bramble Park Zoo, two bald eagles may get a second chance at life. The eagles have been receiving treatment at the zoo’s raptor rehabilitation center for lead poisoning, which is cause for fatality in 60 to 80 percent of poisoned birds.

Zookeeper John Gilman has worked with numerous eagles suffering from lead poisoning and has high hopes for the two most recent birds. Last year, the center was able to release four bald eagles and a number of hawks and owls.

Operating for more than 25 years, the center plays a key role in helping birds get back to the wild in good health. The Public Opinion is hoping to be there later this summer for what we hope will be another successful release.

Taking shots at Trudeau, Canada - Thumbs Down

U.S. President Donald Trump took several shots at Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over trade issues earlier this week following the conclusion of the Group of Seven meeting of industrial nations in Canada earlier.

While we won’t know for some time whether the proposed U.S. trade measures end up helping or hurting the American economy, what we do know is there is a right way and wrong way of doing business.

Insulting a country and its prime minister through numerous tweets is not the right way. We would rather see civilized discussion and compromise when it comes to negotiating trade policies. We can all have differing opinions but name calling doesn’t help get anything done.

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