South Dakota Gov. Noem appoints incoming secretary of state

December 2, 2022 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Friday appointed Monae Johnson, who won election for secretary of state in November, to fill the position for the next month following the early resignation of the current secretary of state.

Johnson was set to be sworn into office in early January, but Steve Barnett, who previously held the office, has resigned to take a job in the private sector, Noem’s office said. Barnett had held the position of South Dakota’s top election official since 2019, but was pushed from a reelection bid after Johnson won the Republican nomination at a party convention in June.

Johnson centered her campaign on what she called “election integrity” and criticized Barnett’s recent efforts to allow voters to update their registration information, such as a change of address, online. She has repeatedly declined to say whether President Joe Biden was elected legitimately — an avoidance that gives room for former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

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“She was elected because of her promise to focus on election integrity, and I look forward to working with her on those efforts,” Noem said in a statement.

Johnson has also said she wants to ensure that Native American voters can easily register to vote and to make the state’s campaign finance reporting system more accessible online. She also plans to push counties to canvas their vote tallies with hand counts — a process that could significantly slow local election officials’ work and make it more cumbersome.

Johnson said she was looking forward to taking over the office early, saying that it would allow her to “immediately get to work for the citizens of South Dakota to finish up the year-end duties.”