PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A new South Dakota law prevents non-profits and private groups from helping to fund local elections in South Dakota.
On Wednesday, Governor Kristi Noem signed senate bill 122 into law.
“Basically what this bill would do is ban private money from coming in and influencing our elections,” said Noem.
A nonprofit called the Center for Tech and Civic Life supported by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg handed out grants all over the country. South Dakota saw about 380 thousand distributed to 35 counties.
Pennington County Auditor Cindy Mohler says she looked at applying for the grant as a way to save taxpayers some money.
“The Center for Tech and Civic Life reached out, asked us to apply there was another person in the community told me about it as well, he reached out to one of the commissioners, they called me and said have you applied for this? I was like, well yep ok, so we got on it, applied for it and received the grant,” said Mohler.
Tom – And again what was the grant money used for?
“For us, it was used for covering the extra cost that we incurred in 2020, you know the absentee ballots were up so we had additional costs in ballots postage, envelopes, time all of those sorts of things, I purchased some shelving to help of organizing all the tubs of absentee ballots, that sort of thing,” said Mohler.
The new law bans government election offices from accepting funding from nonprofits, special interest groups, and private individuals.
“In South Dakota, we care greatly about election integrity and republican states across this country are passing laws much like this,” said Noem.
Mohler feels county auditors in South Dakota do a good job of managing our elections and she believes in the integrity of the state’s election process.
And while she initially looked at the grant as a good thing,
“If it is going to cause concerns amongst the voters, no I’m not sad to see it go away, said Mohler.
One lawmaker told KELOLAND News that allowing private funding for elections could be a slippery slope and counties could become too dependent on it.