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SD House passes election audit bill amid false fraud claims

February 17, 2022 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota House Republicans, spurred by baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was subject to widespread fraud, pushed through a bill on Thursday to require in-depth audits of ballots and voting equipment in close presidential elections.

Republican Rep. Taffy Howard, who is also mounting a Republican primary campaign for the U.S. House, told the House chamber that other states had seen fraud in the 2020 election and South Dakota’s elections also had “irregularities.” Her bill would require a “forensic audit” of ballots, voting equipment, and voter verification processes to verify federal office results if two presidential candidates come within 10 percentage points of each other.

An Associated Press review of every potential case of voter fraud in the six battleground states disputed by former president Donald Trump has found that the actual number of fraud cases was far fewer than he has alleged and would have made no difference in the election. Also, officials from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have said that the election was the most secure in American history.

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Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, bragged about the state’s election systems shortly after Trump carried the state with 62% of the vote in 2020.

But Howard’s bill, which passed the Republican-controlled House on a 36 to 31 vote, demonstrated how Trump’s baseless insistence that the election was stolen has reverberated into statehouses that are shaping election laws.

House Democrat Leader Rep. Jamie Smith pointed out that his caucus was reduced to just eight seats after the election, and yet he had no reason to blame fraud or irregularities.

“This is partisanship,” he said. “This is not good policy for the state of South Dakota.”

Other Republicans avoided alleging fraud outright, but argued that checking up on election results was a good safeguard.

“I just can’t see why we fight having an audit,” said Republican Rep. Kevin Jensen.

The bill does not stipulate how audits would be funded, but allows the State Board of Elections to contract with outside organizations “with experience in forensic audits.”

Both Howard and Jensen attended a conference held by MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell in Sioux Falls last year during which he attempted to prove that voting equipment had been hacked.

The bill will next be considered in the Senate.