Obama Makes History Johnson, Herseth Sandlin easily win re-election
District 17 votors choose incumbants, new faces represent county By David Lias South Dakota didn't follow the same historic path as the much of the nation did Tuesday, but Clay County did. Democratic Barack Obama, the nation's first successful candidate for chief executive, was easily picked for president among local county residents. With all 11 of Clay County's precincts reporting, Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, received 3,808 votes, or slightly more than 60 percent. Obama's opponent, Republican John McCain, and his running mate, Sarah Palin, received 2,296 votes, or just under 37 percent of all county votes cast in the presidential race. Statewide, however, McCain was the victor. Tuesday night, with 769 of 799 precincts reporting, McCain led Obama with slightly more than 53 percent of the vote. Voters in District 17 returned incumbents to office Tuesday. Democrat incumbent Ben Nesselhuf defeated Republican challenger Jerad Higman in Clay County by a margin of 3,663 to 2,217. District-wide, the final vote total for the two Vermillion men was 5.388 and 3,686, with Nesselhuf receiving 59 percent of the vote. The top two vote-getters for District 17 state representative among Clay County voters were two Vermillion Democratics: incumbent Eldon Nygaard, with 3,022 votes, and former legislator John J. Reedy, with 2,962 votes. Republican incumbent Jamie Boomgarden finished third among Clay County voters, with 2,103 votes, but he overtook all challengers with the votes he received in the portion of District 17 outside of Clay County. Boomgarden's vote total was 4,474, followed by Nygaard, who received 4,461 votes. Reedy finished third among the four District 17 House candidates with 3,807 votes. A fourth candidate, Republican Roger Tigert of Vermillion, received 2,783 votes district-wide. Distict 17 is made up of Clay County and most of Turner County. In other local races, incumbent Democratic State's Attorney Teddi Gertsma defeated Republican Grant Walker of Selby. Gertsma received 3,075 votes, or nearly 57 percent of the vote, compared to Walker's 2,356 votes. In Clay County, the county commission will see two new faces as Democrats swept all three at-large positions. Incumbent Leo Powell of Vermillion won another term, while Jerry Wilson of Vermillion and Raymond (Dusty) Passick of Burbank will replace incumbents Mary Jensen and Ralph Westergaard, who did not run for re-election. South Dakota voters were faced with a long list of ballot measures Tuesday. Only one wone approval. South Dakotans approved Constitutional Amendment I, which would allow for 40-day legislative sessions every year instead of the current system of rotating 35 and 40-day sessions. At the same time, voters rejected an amendment that would have increased travel pay for legislators. The most noteworthy ballot issues to be turned down by voters include Initiated Measure 11, a proposal to criminalize abortion unless done in the cases of rape or pregnancy to safe the life or health of a woman. Early Wednesday, with 736 of 799 precincts reporting, voters were rejecting the ban by a 55-45 margin. Initiated Measure 10, known as the "Open and Clean Government Act," was defeated by a 2 to 1 margin. In a race unique to Vermillion, citizens decided through a municipal referendum to begin mandatory curbside recycling for all single family housing and multi-family housing of up to five units. Voters approved the measure 2,163-1,998 for a 52-48 percent margin South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson said voter turnout statewide in Tuesday's general election was about average, at a shade more than 73 percent. The state official had earlier predicted turnout of 75 percent to 78 percent. Turnout at the polls in Clay County was 69 percent. Registered voters in South Dakota set a turnout record of 81 percent in 1968. Nelson said state turnout was 78.6 percent in the last general election featuring presidential candidates, in 2004. South Dakota has 530,462 registered voters, and Nelson said 387,355 of them went to the polls Tuesday. The election process went smoothly with only a few minor problems, he said. The secretary of state closed his office shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday, the earliest he can remember after a general election. Election workers across the state did a fine job, he said. "The system worked wonderfully," Nelson told the Associated Press. "I don't ever remember a general election wrapping up as well as this one did. "We had one or two issues with scanners that they were able to resolve very quickly. But so far as the data coming up to us, they did just a phenomenal job of getting that put in the system quickly." Among South Dakota's 66 counties, voter turnout was highest in Sully County: 79.31 percent. Harding County was the runnerup, at 78.99 percent. The lowest turnout of 42.53 percent was in Shannon County.