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The man in charge of South Dakota elections demanded answers about questionable absentee ballot applications. KELOLAND news first brought you the story Wednesday about applications that may have been improperly notarized.

Hundreds of actual votes could be in question as a result of this. Because if an absentee ballot request isn't valid, the ballot won't be either. Secretary of State Chris Nelson wants to keep that from happening. "I want to know what happened," says Nelson.

Nelson asked the Brookings County State's Attorney to look into reports a campaign volunteer, on the SDSU campus wasn't a certified notary. Jeff Thune told KELOLAND TV his group notarized 75 absentee applications. But we checked. According to the state Jeff Thune is not a certified notary. A spokesman for Thune's campaign says Jeff Thune mis-spoke and didn't do anything wrong.

Except that Thune did not mispeak, and had, in fact done something wrong. While criminal investigations are ongoing, the SD GOP did some damage control and fired a bunch of the people involved.
Tonight six people connected with the South Dakota republican party have resigned over questions surrounding absentee ballot applications.

The state director of the Republican Victory Program, Larry Russell is one of them, along with state republican party employee Eric Fahrendorf. Four independent contractors involved with the absentee ballot applications also resigned. They are Joe Alick, Nathan Mertz, Todd Schlekeway and Rachel Hoff.

Hoff was the notary whose signature and seal appeared on many applications from KELOLAND college students. But several students say only men were there when they filled out the forms.

Mount Marty student Cassandra Herout says, "All I know is they were gonna have the form notarized or audited or something before they sent it in. She was never present at all."

Jeff Thune doesn't appear to be in that bunch.

Now, the SD GOP has to verify each of the hundred of absentee ballots, tying up time and money, all the while facing investigations by both the secretary of state and attorney general's offfices.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 07:56 AM PDT.

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