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.