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After a Rocky Start, the Lincoln County Body Politic Finds Common Ground on Ballot Boxes
The Democratic Process Proves Successful, Yet Again!

UPDATED- Within hours of breaking this story, Minnehaha and Yankton Counties have followed suit making announcements that they will also be removing ballot boxes.

Public Service is often messy. It requires decorum, patience and long hours of hearing public concerns. It might not be for everyone, but for the elected officials of Lincoln County who work hard to represent the people, and the people who work hard to hold government accountable, common ground was found this week--reminding all that Democracy is still alive and well in South Dakota.

On Tuesday April 5, 2022 a
Twitter message began circulating social media. Nicole Ki stated, "residents are angrily storming out of the meeting, after being informed this wasn’t a public hearing and residents couldn’t speak after waiting 4 hours."

Residents are angrily storming out of the meeting, after being informed this wasn’t a public hearing and residents couldn’t speak after waiting 4 hours to. pic.twitter.com/wxdzOIngev

— Nicole Ki ʕ·ᴥ·ʔ (@_nicoleki) April 5, 2022

Chair of the Lincoln County Commission, Tiffani Landeen, can be heard telling people, "this is not a public meeting." Later in the video clip Landeen is heard saying, "and I'm calling a point of order, if anybody speaks out they're going to be asked to leave."

The response came as the result of angry outbursts from a crowd of Lincoln County residents, who had spent four hours waiting to be heard on agenda item #15, "ballot drop boxes". Despite the long meeting, Commissioner Joel Arends asked that the people be allowed to speak. Arends was then challenged by Chair Landeen, citing partisan rhetoric. "I think you need to come to us with a policy, discuss it with legal council, discuss it with the auditor before sittin up here and givin everyone a bunch of rhetoric for your political pundits."

Arends responded by saying, "I'm sorry if you want to challenge my votings, my only motive for being here is to comply with the law."

Landeen, interupts- "Of course and here you go,and you're out of order. If you want to discuss this and bring an actual policy forward that's been vetted by." (recording stops there)

Days prior to the meeting, current county elections auditor Sheri Lund had posted the April 5, 2022 meeting agenda in the Sioux Falls Politics Facebook page, asking for feedback on the issue of ballot boxes. In her Facebook post, Lund says

"Item # 15 -Discussion and action on County ballot drop box policy- If you are a person that took advantage of the ballot drop box or the deputy that was in Sioux Falls please email me at auditor@lincolncountysd.org and give us some feedback..."

According to the Lincoln County meeting agenda, the meeting was public, public discussion was scheduled, as was "the discussion and action on County ballot drop boxes." Residents responded to Lund's request for feedback, and sat through hours of discussion on various topics. Jessica Pollema was in the audience, and amongst those eager to share her concerns. Pollema is running this election to replace Sheri Lund, and says she's made election integrity her full-time job, after finding anomalies in the current voter rolls.

However, when agenda item #15 came up, the discussion was quickly shut down, as seen above. That doesn't sit well with Lincoln County Commissioner Candidate Alex Hixon. Hixon, who is running against Landeen, tells The Dakota Leader what occurred was unacceptable.

"The behavior by Commissioner Landeen was not befitting of a County Commissioner. Commissioner Joel Arends was bringing up legitimate legal issues about the ballot box, of which he is indeed correct. There is no South Dakota law that allows for the use of ballot boxes. Landeen was out of order to shut down communication on a topic that many members were obviously very passionate about. It's my understanding that 32 people attended and waited four hours to speak. These people just wanted their voices and concerns heard, which she blatantly protested."

"Additionally, she acted in an uncivil, and uncourteous manner to her fellow commissioner," Hixon said in a statement to The Dakota Leader.

The Dakota Leader has reached out to Commissioner Landeen, but has yet to hear back.



Regardless of the momentary tensions, by Friday the County released the following statement, earning relief and praise amongst constituents.

"NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that beginning on April 13, 2022, Absentee Ballot Boxes, aka ballot drop boxes (“Absentee Ballot Boxes”), will no longer be used in Lincoln County."

In a phone call with The Dakota Leader, Lund said she had people on both sides of the issue give feedback. However, given that pandemic restrictions have been lifted, and the courthouse is fully reopened, Lund says she will remove the ballot boxes.

In a statement made to her Facebook page, Lund writes, "during the pandemic there where (were) closures and concerns about mail not reaching the Auditor's office on time. We implemented a drop box in front of the Courthouse that was always monitored and an in person drop off in Sioux Falls. Now that the restrictions of the pandemic have been lifted, the need for the drop boxes do not currently exist. So, the new policy is going into effect, please see the attached notice. However, if there is a concern regarding getting ballots to the Auditor’s office, we will take every legal step to ensure all eligible voters have the opportunity to exercise that right. My intent is to still have the in person drop off in Sioux Falls."

Although Jessica Pollema is a primary opponent, she tells The Dakota Leader, "I appreciate the stance that Lincoln County took on the issue of voting and election integrity, in response to the concerns of citizens."

"We all care about our county, our state, our country and our vote. We just want secure elections, and it's vital to take proactive steps in order to restore the trust and confidence of voters."

(There are no conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise between The Dakota Leader and anyone mentioned or quoted within this article.)



Our goal is to clarify, and illuminate all sides of each subject, to the best of our ability. Our mission is to bridge the gap between elected individuals and the people they answer to, in order to rebuild trust and confidence in local government through unbiased reporting, and civic education. PLEASE HELP SUPPORT THIS IMPORTANT WORK

--Breeauna Sagdal- Health and Policy Journalist for The Dakota Leader

Post Date: 2022-04-08 11:38:10Last Update: 2022-04-21 21:09:19


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