Student Voting Guide | South Dakota

August 15, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of South Dakota.  If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state where you attend school. If you want to cast an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here.

While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.


You may register to vote if you will be 18 by the next election.[1]

You can register to vote by mail or in person, and can download the form online. You will be asked to provide either your South Dakota driver’s license number or the last four digits of your Social Security number on your registration form.[2] If you do not have these numbers, you will have to register in person at the county auditor’s office and sign a statement that you do not have either number.[3]

Your registration application must be received by the county auditor’s office fifteen days before the election. If you mail in your form, it must be received, not post-marked, by that date.[4] You can check your voter registration online.

If you have been convicted of a felony, it may affect your right to vote. If you have questions, you should contact local election officials.


At School. South Dakota law defines residence as your “fixed” home to which you “intend to return” after any absence.[5] Students can establish residency in South Dakota if they have a present intention to remain at their South Dakota school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home. Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.[6] The Secretary of State has stated that students may choose to vote from their school address.[7]

At Home. Students who moved out of South Dakota to attend school elsewhere, and who intend on moving back after graduating, may register and vote in South Dakota.[8] Under South Dakota law, a voter who leaves his or her home in South Dakota “for a temporary purpose only” has “not changed his or her residence.”[9] Like most states, South Dakota allows students to keep their voting residency even if they move out of the district to attend school, and the only way you will lose this residency is by establishing residency in a new state.

While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered abandonment of residency in South Dakota, some judges or officials might view it as such.[10] If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to South Dakota with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register at home.

Voting in South Dakota may be considered a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws that govern state residents.

Challenges to Residency. There are no procedures under South Dakota state law for your residency to be challenged.


All South Dakota voters will be asked to show photo identification before voting.[11] Valid forms of photo ID include:

  1. a South Dakota driver’s license or non-driver ID card;
  2. a passport or other photo ID issued by the U.S. government;
  3. a current student photo ID from a college or university in South Dakota; or
  4. tribal identification with a photo.[12]

If you do not have acceptable ID, you can sign a sworn statement with your name and address and you will then be able to vote by regular ballot.[13]

Note that you can be challenged at the polls by election officials or partisan poll-watchers on the grounds that you are not who you say you are – if you are challenged, you will have the right to present evidence of your identity before precinct superintendent who will make a preliminary decision on the challenge.[14] If the precinct superintendent upholds the challenge, you will have the right to vote by provisional ballot.[15]

Absentee Voting

Any registered voter can vote absentee in South Dakota without providing a reason.[16] You must apply to receive a blank absentee ballot in the mail; blank application forms are available on the Secretary of State’s website.

The deadline to submit an application for an absentee ballot is 5:00 pm the day before Election Day, [17] but you will want to apply early enough to receive the ballot in the mail and return it before the polls close on Election Day. You either have to get your absentee ballot application notarized, or you can send along with it a copy of a valid form of photo ID (see section on Identification above).[18]

Your completed absentee ballot must be received before the polls close.[19] You may deliver your ballot, in person or by mail, to your county election official,[20] or you may deliver your ballot in person to your polling place on Election Day.[21]

Early Voting

As a convenience to voters, South Dakota has early voting, conducted through in-person absentee ballots, which begins as soon as ballots are available and ends on the day before Election Day.[22] You should check with your county elections office for the exact dates, times, and locations.

Last Updated August 15, 2014

[1] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-4-1.

[2] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-4-5.4.

[3] S.D. Admin. R. 5:02:03:21.

[4] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-4-5. However, South Dakota will accept mailed registration forms that arrive after the deadline if they are postmarked 30 days before the election.

[5] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-1-4.

[6] See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).

[7] Guide for College Students, S.D. Sec’y of State,   (last visited August 14, 2014).

[8] Guide for College Students, S.D. Sec’y of State,  (last visited August 14, 2014).

[9] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-1-4.

[10] See generally 107 A.L.R. 448 (significance of place where one votes or registers to vote on question as to his domicile or residence for other purposes); 44 A.L.R.3d 797 (residence of students for voting purposes).

[11] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-18-6.1.

[12] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-18-6.1.

[13] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-18-6.2.

[14] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-18-10.

[15] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-18-39.

[16] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-19-1.

[17] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-19-2.1.

[18] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-19-2.

[19] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-19-12.

[20] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-19-7.

[21] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-19-12.

[22] S.D. Codified Laws § 12-19-2.1.