Gosch case moves into unclear territory, while Gant loses dismissal motion in federal court on Shannon County case

The decision by South Dakota Circuit Judge Robert Mandel to move the Gosch election petition-notarization case from Pennington County circuit court to Hughes County circuit court has raised some big questions about what needs to happen next. Judge Mandel previously had set a hearing for Oct. 3. By rescinding that order as part of his change-of-venue decision, there’s no longer a hearing set, and there’s no longer a show-cause order pending against Secretary of State Jason Gant. Further, it’s unclear whether the Pennington County clerk of court transfers the case file to Hughes County or Stephanie Strong has to file the paperwork against Gant in Hughes. Strong contends that Gant shouldn’t have accepted the candidacy petition of Rep. Brian Gosch because Gosch notarized the signature of a person gathering signatures from registered voters for his petition. Just last week Gant through his lawyer informed Gosch that Gant wouldn’t defend the legality of the Gosch petition. That caused Gosch and the Pennington County Republican Party to seek the court’s permission to intervene in the matter. Now all of those twists and turns are floating in the vapor somewhere between Rapid City and Pierre, while early voting has been under way for six business days already.

Meanwhile, in federal court on an unrelated matter, U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier rejected Secretary of State Gant’s motion seeking dismissal of an early-voting lawsuit brought by residents of Shannon County, whose state and county elections are administered through the Fall River County auditor’s office. Because Shannon County doesn’t run its own elections, the question is what must be done to accommodate Shannon County residents regarding early voting. Rather than get 46 days of in-person early voting in Shannon County, the original remedy called for six days of in-person early voting there. Fall River County meanwhile, as the site of the courthouse, offers the full 46 days to Shannon and Fall River residents. Gant sought to be dismissed from the lawsuit, but Judge Schreier said Gant is a proper party to be sued for early voting shortcomings in Shannon County because of his legal authority to oversee emergency elections and his control of Help America Vote Act federal funding.

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About Bob Mercer

I am a newspaper reporter in Pierre where I cover state government, issues and politics for the Aberdeen American News, the Black Hills Pioneer, the Mitchell Daily Republic, the Pierre Capital Journal, the Rapid City Journal, the Watertown Public Opinion and the Yankton Press & Dakotan. I began covering the Legislature in 1985 and have lived in Pierre since December 1986. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked my way through college, took my first full-time newspapers jobs in Wyoming, and have lived in South Dakota since the summer of 1984 when I moved to Aberdeen to join the American News. I worked for the Rapid City Journal as its state government reporter in Pierre from late 1992 through late 1998. I spent four years as press secretary and a senior aide to Gov. Bill Janklow during his fourth and final term from late 1998 through 2002. I returned to journalism in January 2003 as a self-employed reporter, providing state government coverage to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre and, depending on the year, Aberdeen newspapers. In 2008, the Aberdeen American News offered to hire me as full-time member of the AAN staff, with my reports continuing to be available to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre, Yankton and Rapid City papers. The new arrangement has been in effect since January 2009 as the seven papers continue their remarkable dedication to their readers and the general public, as the only South Dakota news outlets with a full-time reporter covering state government in Pierre throughout the year. In addition to focusing on the Legislature during the annual winter session and its various activities during the interim periods between sessions, I spend many days throughout the year -- traveling as often necessary -- to cover state government boards and commissions which oversee the state universities, technical institutes, outdoors, water, environment, business, public schools, banking, agriculture, utilities, health care and various other areas of public interest. I purposely don't register to vote because of my profession; the last time I recall voting in a presidential election was the first time, 1976, when I had just turned 18. I think I voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford. Make of that what you want, just don't make much of it.

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