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The Ballot Counting Process Broken Down



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It’s official, all the results are in, but it was a long night for many working the election.
Ballots in Minnehaha County were being counted until about 4 o’clock Wednesday morning.

Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz said he feels this Presidential Election went better than the last one four years ago.

Over 77,000 ballots were cast in the county and he said volunteers and county workers finished counting them two hours earlier than expected.

Litz said he understands why people are wondering what took so long, but he said it isn’t an easy task that can be rushed.

And Wednesday, he talked about how the counting process works.  

At 10 a.m. Tuesday 18,000 absentee ballots began to be opened, all in preparation for when polls close.
 
"Starting at 7 o'clock some of the local ones will start coming in, and they keep coming in until about 8:30 p.m. depending on how far they are and how big they are,” said Bob Litz, Minnehaha County’s Auditor.

Litz said when precinct ballots come in they are sorted between used and unused. Then the absentees, overseas write in ballots, as well as military ballots are added into their precinct.

"The first ones we would get them shaken out and start counting. Around 8:30 p.m. is when we started doing our first counts,” said Litz.
     
The process is repeated 71 times for all of the Minnehaha County precincts.
     
“I think it was 3:30 a.m., or 3:20 a.m. when we did our final uptake on ballots,” Litz said.

But Tuesday’s election threw Litz a curve ball.

“We had a bit of a late start down here due to a crush of last minute voters at the precinct down here,” said Litz.
     
It was a rush right before the polls closed that put workers behind schedule, making for a long night for everyone involved.

But as ballots are being sorted and counted, we wonder what is it like for candidates?
     
So we asked re-elected South Dakota State Senator of District 12 Mark Johnston.
    
“ Just waiting and not knowing is the hardest part,” said State Senator Mark Johnston.

  Johnston said he went to bed at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, and in the end it was his phone that provided all the answers.
     
“Then I got a text at about 3:30 a.m. that said our race had finished and they had finished counting the absentee ballots and we have prevailed,” said Johnston.

Johnston said the same thing happened to him two years ago, so this election wasn’t a surprise.

He said he just passed the time with his family who has already begun to help him start taking down his campaign signs.

Litz said he is looking into using the electronic polling system for the next election. He hopes that will help speed up the process at the polls.

Statewide voter turnout was just under 70 percent.  
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