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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Voting Rights Saves Mission, Wagner Drivers License Stations...

...but Sioux Falls still more important than 15 small towns.

Remember the state's plan to cut 17 drivers license stations? Apparently, the cuts have been reduced to 15: Mission and Wagner are not listed among the stations closed as of October 1.

How'd they make out? Thank the Voting Rights Act. According to Monica Wepking of the Wagner Post (also reported previously by Austin Kaus of the Mitchell Daily Republic), closing the drivers license stations would have forced residents to drive farther to obtain the photo IDs necessary for voting. The Native American populations in those areas could well have sued the state for making voting more difficult for them. Upon further review, Governor Rounds decided to avoid litigation and keep the Wagner and Mission stations open.

But the state and urban media are still spinning the closure of the other 15 stations as a good thing... for Sioux Falls. KELO reports that the Westport Avenue drivers license station will get two extra workers two days a week.

"By bringing in the extra staff, it will help shorten the wait times at the Sioux Falls office here. People would be able to come in and get their driver's licenses renewed, also get drive tests at a faster rate," [senior examiner Jim] Lilla said [Brian Kushida, "SF Drivers Licensing Station Gets Staff Boost," KELOLand.com, 2009.10.06].

Indeed, the busy people of Sioux Falls can't be made to wait. But a dozen folks in Britton, another dozen in Howard, another dozen in Philip (and so on) can be expected to not only wait but drive an extra half hour to a licensing station in another town, then lose another half hour in their car as they drive back to their work or their kids or whatever pressing business they have in their little communities.

A Sioux Falls resident waiting at the drivers license station can take phone calls, read a book, you name it. A Philip resident driving to Kadoka or Wall cannot (please, don't read and drive). The productivity loss caused by closing these 15 small-town drivers license stations is great for rural residents than for the Sioux Falls residents favored by the Governor's decision.


  1. Well, duh. Of course Sioux Falls reaps the benefits. We're better than everyone else. ;)

  2. Darn big-city kids, forgetting their roots. Put up your dukes, Mr. Vilhauer! ;-)

  3. Highmore lost its drivers license examiner years ago. But the solution has been better than the old status quo. Now if you need to renew or even get a license for the first time you just go to the county treasurers office. Hyde County Treasurer Sandi Hemminger administers the written test, the eye exam, and takes your photo with a digital camera. Sheriff Mike Volek administers the driving test if needed. All the results and the photo are electronically transmitted to Pierre, and in a few days your new license comes in the mail. When this system was first implemented during the Janklow years it was touted as a way to save money and provide better service to rural SD.

    I assume it has saved money and the service is much better. The treasurers office is open 5 days a week while the examiner used to come to town only once every month or so.

    There are ways to do things better without sticking it to rural SD. We just have to think of them. I don't know if this system will be allowed in other towns. If I remember correctly Hyde County agreed to try if on a trial basis and was the first, and maybe only, county in the state to do so.

  4. Officer thinking, Nick! Can the folks at the Miner County Courthouse adopt this option if they want to? (Of course, we should back the truck up and ask the folks in Miner County if they want that option -- I'll ask my Howard friends tomorrow night!)

  5. Cory, It's sure worth asking about. If I remember correctly this was touted by the Janklow administration as a cost savings to the state and not that big of a work increase to the treasurer or sheriff. Hyde County has a population of less than 1800 but you can get a drivers license any day the courthouse is open.


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