We've got Spirit, yes we do. And I'll enforce the spirit for you.

The Rapid City Journal is reporting this morning that there's new law enforcement in Pennington. In the wake of shutting down a polling place because she didn't care for it's politics in the days leading up to the election, the Republican County Auditor, Julie Pearson has apparently now been verbally deputized by the State's Attorney Glenn Brenner to "enforce the spirit" of laws.
Sen. Bill Napoli, R-Rapid City, challenged Pearson’s authority to change polling places, saying state law gives the county commission sole authority to determine polling places.

“You have the final word. There is no mention of the auditor, in state law, changing the polling place,” he said.

Sen. Jerry Apa, R-Lead, said Pearson overstepped her bounds and “tried to usurp your power as county commissioners.” He added, “If I was a county commissioner and it happened on my watch, I would be putting forth a resolution of condemnation and would move forward with an active investigation.”

Pearson ordered Open Bible Christian Center on East St. Patrick Street closed Nov. 2 after county election officials failed to get assurances from the church that a campaign sign supporting Referred Law 6, the proposed abortion ban, would be removed by Election Day.

State law prohibits election signs within 100 feet of any polling place. The campaign sign on Open Bible property was 100 feet from the door, but county policy dictates that polling place owners either allow all signs past 100 feet or no signs at all.

Hundreds of voters who normally vote at Open Bible were directed to three other polling places.


Haverly said closing a polling place so close to the election was unfair to voters.

“The thing we have to remember is … we are there to serve the people and sometimes, I think that gets lost,” Haverly said. “The people I talked to when I visited Open Bible didn’t feel they were being served. They felt they were being frustrated.”


But State’s Attorney Glenn Brenner defended Pearson’s actions, saying the auditor was attempting to enforce the spirit of the law (my emphasis - pp) that allows people to vote unimpeded by campaign signs.

“I think this is an attack on our auditor who does an excellent job for this county and has for a number of years,” he said. “Adequate notice was attempted. Julie acted in her official capacity to try and remedy the situation. If it’s public censure you’re after, I think you’re doing a pretty good job of it today.”

Brenner said Pearson had information that the church was not going to comply with the law, so she decided to close the polling place and move voters to other polls. She then mailed more than 1,000 new voter registration cards with new polling place information and talked to the media about the situation.

“At this point, I think we need to talk about how we resolve this for the future,” he said.

Commissioner Mark Kirkeby said he respects Pearson but believes that people’s right to vote was impeded by the polling place change. He said the effort to alert voters about the situation should have been far greater.

“Voting should be the easiest thing in the world to do,” he said. “At this stage of the game, I’m not going to question Julie’s authority to do something. However, it could have been done a heck of a lot sooner than it was.”

Commissioner Delores Coffing said the situation could have been prevented if someone from the auditor’s office had physically gone to the church and made sure the sign had been removed.

“A 15-minute drive would have resolved the whole thing,” she said. “They would have gone out, found out the sign was not there. Even if it had been there, it wasn’t the day of the election. It has been a comedy of errors from the very beginning, which should have been caught just by taking a drive out there.”
Read all of Scott Aust's article here as it's now apparent to the state that the auditor greatly overstepped the bounds of her authority, and is now reaping the whirlwind for her efforts. The thing to keep in mind on this is that such an action would not be tolerated from a Democratic County Auditor, and we should darn well not tolerate such an action from one of our own.

Glen Brenner's actions on this smack of boobery. If a poll worker shut down a voting precinct, because they were attempting to enforce "the spirit of the law," would Brenner stand with that person? OF COURSE NOT.

In part of the article you can read for yourself, Democratic Lt. Candidate Eric Abrahamson defends her actions because he's concerned about a polling place being associated with a position on a particular issue.

So, what is his proposal? Advocate building several buildings in each county exclusively for polling? Because that's what you'd have to do.

Schools are used for polling. And many, many times as of late, people are voting on bond issues for schools. Even county courthouses are not immune. They could be considered less than neutral territory if it's a county opt out. Aside from the fact this is a good illustration of his lack of grasping the issue, it shows that such a standard is impossible.

Given that, it's unreasonable to expect that every polling place is going to meet this unreachable level of purity that Abrahamson advocates. What needs to happen is that the law needs to en enforced by those who have the authority to enforce it.

Not those imbued with the power of "spirit enforcement."


Anonymous said…
"unreachable level of purity"

It is either no signs or all signs. This seems pretty easy to me.
PP said…
There WASN'T a sign there at election time. That's the issue.

She did it because they were there before the election.
Anonymous said…
Funny how the story changes

"Brenner said Pearson had information that the church was not going to comply with the law"

But in the Nov 3 story (http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/articles/2006/11/03/news/top/news01.txt)

"'We’re not saying they were breaking the law,' Pearson emphasized.

The sign urging a “yes” vote on Referred Law 6 was more than 100 feet from the polling place and would have complied with state law. The sign was, however, on Open Bible property. Pearson said county policy requires owners of polling places to either ban all signs on that property or allow all signs."

I'd like to find out more about this policy - is this a policy enacted by the County Commission or one that Pearson came up with on her own? Why wasn't this dealt with more than a few days before the election, if this is the policy? Shouldn't the county make this policy known and get some sort of assurance from the polling place before designating the polling places sending them the $75 fee?
Anonymous said…
Under Abrahamson's scenario, virtually every polling place, including the courthouse, would have been elminated with the JAIL amendment on the ballot because EVERYBODY was against it. I don't know what the answer is other than just making sure that signs are gone on election day.
Anonymous said…
From what I understood, the church refused to say they would take down the sign before the election. So even if they did, their refusal made her think they wouldn't. So she reacted to the knowledge that there would probably still be a sign there.

I kind of agree that this whole thing turned into a mess, but I give the auditor the benifit of the doubt in trying to do the right thing.
Anonymous said…
How can county policy preempt state election laws?

Just because something is "policy" does not make it legal. This kind of crap goes on in county courthouses all the time.

It's like counties who require people to bring extra information to renew their license plates. When I renewed mine in person the auditor wanted my vehicle registration, yet I could have renewed via the mail and obviated the need for registration. I was told that it was county policy.

Stuff like this goes on all the time.

God bless Larry Long, he the best in the business, BUT we need a more agressive AG who will get out there, especially at election time and crack down on this sh*t. Use state civil rights laws if you have to.
Anonymous said…
There is a simple solution. Any private place being used as a polling place should be required to follow the all or nothing rule and it should be the entire property, not just 100 feet. Make this a statewide rule, make the building owner agree to this in writing as part of getting paid for use of the site.

There has been debate about even allowing churches to be used anymore since some can't be neutral for even one day. There are also issues with people who feel it is oppressive to have to vote in a church. Believe it or not there are people even in South Dakota who have no desire to step foot into a church. There are people who have real issues with entering into churches that promote things they find highly offensive also. On the other side there are many churches who are able to maintain neutrality on election day. We either need to clarify state rules and make people play by them or quit using private buildings as polling places.
Anonymous said…
God bless Larry Long as long as he ignores Roger Hunt's transgressions and punishes everyone the born again freaks dislike. While we're at it lets make sure that Schmidt gets a walk for perjury also. Oh the humanity!
Todd Epp said…
Hey, how about those Vikings!?
Anonymous said…
Can not understand why the auditor did not turn it over to the County Commissioners, they are the ones with authority to enforce the rules. Most auditors think they know everything and want to run the whole show in the courthouse.
Anonymous said…
The Minnehaha county state's attorney said that church buildings used as polling places could refuse to put up certain signs outside of the 100 ft. perimeter where campaigning is against the law.

He said owners of private property have the right to refuse to display certain political signs, even if they are serving as a polling place.
Anonymous said…
Mr. Brenner and Stan Adelstein are related...Julie is a friend of Stan's as well. Julie herself never spoke to the Pastor. Notice the Democrats were not upset in this district-they should be they lost? I think this stinks of last minute attempts to oust Napoli and give the Dems some favor in 35. The funny thing was...which no one has mentioned ...on Thursday their sign was damaged that was outside..so there was no sign anywhere on the church grounds when they made their fuss with the press late Friday into Saturday. Another funny thing the auditor said was that there were ONLY 72 people who came to the church to vote out of 1600 registered voters...how come they didn't say only 72 out of the 450 who usually vote there were disorientated? Ummm perhaps that would make them look guilty? I am glad they are investigating this!
Anonymous said…
I hear Julie Pearson has been a PITA during the whole 06 election process. When does she come up for election?
Anonymous said…
I bet abrahamson wouldnt mind if planned parenthood was a polling place.
Anonymous said…
Julie Pearson's dog and pony show will long be remembered come time for her election.
This kind of behavior won't be forgotten.
Anonymous said…
I hear Brenner and Adelstein go together like vinegar and water.
Anonymous said…
Brenner is a disgrace. I hope people remember this if he ever tries to run for Attorney General again.
Anonymous said…
Todd, it's Viqueens!
Anonymous said…
Let's see, the county commission has sole authority to designate polling places. Just days before the election, Pearson changes a polling place and sends out 1,000 new voter registration cards, without notifying the county commission. She does so on hearsay information about a sign that doesn't violate state law and isn't even there days before the election. The states attorney attempts to explain it all away as nothing. And, of course, the Adelstein name pops up.

Sounds like malfeasance to me. Brenner should be investigated too, especially if he advised Pearson in any of this.
Anonymous said…
It's almost amusing how some people look for someone to blame when elections don't go their way.

My husband was sitting in the chiropractor's office the other day when an older man and woman began complaining about the election results. They made accusations that many of the "liberal Democrats" voted twice.

They went on to claim that there were more votes cast than there were voters and that some people voted absentee and again in person.

My husband finally got disgusted and asked them if they really believed that. He pointed out that he had voted absentee and that he had to present a copy of his driver's license and sign things before and afterwards so his signature could be compared.

He went on to explain that I, his wife, worked at the polls, and he knew that each name on the voter list was already marked when a person had voted or even requested an absentee ballot.

He explained that it would be difficult to vote twice, and the only way someone could do that would be if officials were not doing their jobs.

That ended the conversation, but it points out how foolish people can be when they need someone to blame.
Anonymous said…
Which idiot(s) approved a church as a polling place? Would they approve polling in a synagogue or a mosque or Wickian place of worship?
Anonymous said…
there are no mosque's or wickan places of worship in most if not all precincts in south dakota.

so what's your point? are you intolerant of churces? when did you lean to hate?
Anonymous said…
12-14-1. Designation of precincts and polling places by county commissioners--Changes-- Separate voter lists of special voting districts. The board of county commissioners shall by resolution provide for election precincts throughout its county and shall designate polling places within such precincts. The board shall establish new election precincts if required by the provisions of this chapter and may by resolution change the boundaries of election precincts already established. The county auditor shall be able to provide separate lists of voters living within the boundaries of each municipality, ward, school district, and any other special voting district.

Source: SDC 1939, § 16.0801; SL 1959, ch 94; SL 1974, ch 118, § 60; SL 1978, ch 101, § 1; SL 2002, ch 40, § 15.

thats the law....

fact 1; the church violated no law
fact 2; no violations in last 12 years
fact 3; there is no policy about "no signs/all signs on polling place property" at least no written policy Pearson can produce.
fact 4; its he said she said, Pearson has no proof the church would not comply, in fact, the pastor said he would comply with the "policy"(that doesnt exist) and that there would be no sign on election day at the church.
fact 5; Per the above law, Pearson had no authority to move a polling place (unless you think she is God)
fact 6; this requirement(sign policy) is not written into the rental agreement for being a polling place.

Bottom line, an elected official broke the law, violated the rights of voters and is being defended by the Pennington County States attorney...

throw them both outa office.
Anonymous said…
RE: 9:46 AM. I love the First Amendment, I do not hate places of worship. I love the Jeffersonian / Madisonian ideal of cutting churches out of civil governance, directly, indirectly or impliedly. The fact that there presently are no mosques in SD is irrelevant (though now there is a muslim in congress). Rather your argument shows you fail to see the issue of state sanctioning of religion. I never said a church or anyone violated a law - you did; I merely said that having a polling place in a place of worship was idiocy. It invites more problems than it solves. It is a solution for a lazy mind and lazy men. Did we learn nothing from our founding fathers and their study of the religious devisiveness in Europe and the US during colonial times? Or is the state of our educational system that sorry as to avoid those lessons?
Anonymous said…
I was commenting on the blog issue, not rebutting your remarks.
I see the issue perfectly. The State renting a church building, for a day, hardly qualifies as "State sanctioned religion"

this blog is not about seperation of church and state.The auditor lied, took action she had no authority to take and by doing so broke the law.

If you dont want churches to be polling places, OK, tell the county commissioners to take all the polling places out of all churches. You have the right to do that but I think you are overly sensitive about it.

Are you afraid of people that attend church, or are you afraid of an empty building ?

The church in question is a metal building with a brick facade, huge parking lot, makes a great polling place by the way.
Anonymous said…
12:23 pm - What proof do you have that the auditor lied? Everything I've read indicates it was a he said-she said situation.

Since we weren't there when the conversation took place, we can only speculate on what happened.

What did the auditor have to gain by moving the polling place other than a lot of headaches by having to redo the voting lists and reassign the voting materials to different precincts?

Maybe it would have been better to have the police come on election morning and remove the sign if it wasn't gone. I bet that would have gone over really well too.

Oh, and 2:15 - I don't think the auditor ever said the church broke the law. Her concern was that they would break the law on election day.
Anonymous said…
I believe that's called prior restraint.

And even if it wasn't, it's not her call. It's the county commission.

But I'm sure in Julie's head they're just an interference to her.
Anonymous said…

1; the auditor said there was a policy.. thats a lie, she has not, can not, produce one,,,therefore I can say she lied.

2; Since the County was renting the property for the day, why couldnt they have taken the sign down, why police ? I dont think youve thought this point through. Keep in mind the pastor said they would be gone, just like the previous 12 years. Or are you assuming the pastor is lieing ?

3; The same logic applied to car owners,,,,lets take your license away because you might speed.

You have agreed she did wrong by your own words, She was afraid they might break the law so she punished them. WHHHAATTTT,,HAHA I hope you arent a judge.
Anonymous said…
2:58 - Yes, you are right about most of it. Did the auditor say there was a written policy against this happening? Has there ever been a similar problem before?

Yes, the county could remove the sign unless someone tried to stop that person from doing it. I made that remark to show what other extreme measures could be taken, and I didn't make my intent clear.

I'm not sure that there is an equal comparison between this situation and a speeding car. The church was not cited in any way, were they? How was the church punished? Had the rent already been paid to the church or was that taken from them?

I still question what was said that led to all of this.

As far as whether the minister is lying, it's his word against hers. Ministers have done much worse things so it cannot automatically be assumed that he would not lie just because he is a minister.

Of course people who know the parties involved and their personalities might have more insight - IF they can look at things objectively.

Any way you look at it, it turned into a mess.

Maybe they need to avoid using churches as polling places - at least if the abortion issue ever goes before voters again (heaven forbid).
Anonymous said…
The Auditor said the church wasnt breaking any laws, they were violating county policy. several legislators and county commissioners have asked to see the policy and their requests have not been granted. Therefore, the auditor has no written policy or is refusing to comply. Noone else has ever seen or heard of this policy either. I would guess that if she had a written policy she would have given a copy to the media at least to defend herself.

I believe the auditor should have warned all polling places that violating a policy of "no signs' would result in the polling place being relocated next election. If there was a policy.

BTW this information is not in the polling place agreement that is signed by both parties, I think it should be, again, if that is the policy.

The car analogy goes like this. You have been driving for 12 years, no speeding tickets. Then the police show up at your door to confiscate your drivers license, because they said you called city hall and said you were going to speed, driving to work today. So they take your license before you even broke the law by speeding. Thats the equivalent of what happened to the church.

last point, shouldnt the elected official have had enough professionalism, to have documentation, to support such a radical act?

I think so, closing a polling place is a drastic step 5 days before the election. Documentation is a reasonable expectation.
Anonymous said…
RE: 4:59. Radical? Drastic? Not hardly. Maybe preventative. The commissioners muffed this one. They could have contracted to pull signs days timed with an announcement that the church was going to provide a government function - but they failed.

Whether pastors lie? Remember Ted Haggard, Falwell, etc.

Having a polling place at a place of worship is a lousy idea frought from a lazy mind. Just observing how exercised the true believers are about a minor five day notice in a change of polling place is all that's needed to show just how bad the original decision to turn a place of worship into a polling place. Get over it and move on.
Anonymous said…

You afraid of an empty building?
Sheetrock have some kinda power over you?
2 x 4's scare you ?
Are you like a vampire, seeing a cross might kill you?
please explain this fear to me, is it like fear of spiders, heights, etc ?

I dont care whether we vote in a church or in porta poti's in walmarts parking lot. The power the churchs have does not come from the building,hahaha, in fact, most churchs start with no building at all, you scared of them too? how bout them pesky eevangeleets coming into the civic center? hahaha,, does that scare you ?

I lump all you seperation loonies right up there with, UFO's, bigfoot, and alien abductions.
Call the Enquirer they like stories like yours.
Anonymous said…
I'm no more afraid of sheetrock than you are of the First Amendment. And from your comments, you are terrified of the power of Jefferson's idea.
Anonymous said…
I cant remember if Jefferson was for placing power in the hands of representatives or placing the power in the hands of the electorate, I want the power in my hand,,,so Jefferson or Madison?

Either way, I am not afraid of the first amendment or empty buildings.

This blog really isnt about seperation of church n state, it is about did the auditor do the right thing?.....the facts say NO

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