Home > 2015 SD Legislative Session > Ballot access issues with SB 69

Ballot access issues with SB 69

January 20, 2015

ballot-box-frontYesterday I published a post about the bills before the Senate State Affairs committee on January 21. Included in the bills going before the committee is SB 69. The main changes from SB 69 are designed to move the nominating petition timeline deadline earlier to allow more time for the challenge process. If this bill were to pass, petitions would be due at the SOS office on the last Tuesday in February, instead of the last Tuesday in March as current law dictates. This change may help fix some of the problems seen during the 2014 election. Since writing that post I have been informed this bill may in fact create a situation where ballot access for newly-qualifying party petitions are too early, and South Dakota has already admitted this in court.

Here part of what Richard Winger over at Ballot Access news has to say:

These state officials probably don’t remember that in 1984, South Dakota’s Attorney General and Secretary of State admitted that a February petition deadline for a newly-qualifying party is unconstitutional, and the legislature then moved that deadline to April. This admission was made after the South Dakota Libertarian Party sued the Secretary of State. That case is reported at 579 F Supp 735 (1984). However, the only decision the judge had to make in that case was that the wording on the party petition was unconstitutionally restrictive. The judge didn’t need to adjudicate the part of the case that challenged the February deadline, because the state admitted it was too early.

The Memorandum Opinion for the case can be read on eCases.us.

Section 10 of SB 69 is where new political parties would be subject to the new deadline:

12-5-1. A new political party may be organized and participate in the primary election by filing withsubmitting to the secretary of state not later than the last Tuesday of March February at five p.m. prior to the date of the primary election, a written declaration signed by at least two and one-half percent of the voters of the state as shown by the total vote cast for Governor at the last preceding gubernatorial election, which declaration shall contain:

Additionally Winger found issues with the primary petitions with newly formed parties:

Newly-qualifying parties in South Dakota, like all qualified parties, must nominate by primary for most, but not all, partisan offices. Other states whose party petition deadlines have been held to be too early have provided that newly-qualifying parties need not participate in a primary.

I still have more research to do on this topic. But right now it appears the burden placed on ballot access in SB 69 overwhelms any good intentions of the bill. Yes, the nominating petition procedures in South Dakota need to be overhauled. However at this time it appears the wrong path is being taken. As a short-term fix maybe amending the bill to remove the new restrictions on newly-qualifying parties would be appropriate. But it might be time to realize that true reform may not be possible during the 2015 legislative session. Instead perhaps a workgroup or summer study should be formed to take a deep look at election law in SD and in other states for a comparison. Then come to the 2016 legislature with a comprehensive solution that would fix the problems experienced in the 2014 election while concurrently ensuring the first and fourteenth amendment protections are properly observed.

I have reached out to the SOS office to let them know about potential problems with the bill. I also tentatively plan to travel to Pierre in the morning and attend the committee meeting (provided the snow we are currently having doesn’t turn nasty). More posts on this topic are very likely!

  1. Merlyn Schutterle
    January 20, 2015 at 9:29 am

    When I ran as an Independent years ago, I didn’t have to have my petition in until June. Then they backed it up so the Independents didn’t have as much time to get the petition in. They are worrying about the technical points of whether the signatures are valid or not. Let the voters decide who they want to vote for. There too many restrictions already. We should have to have fewer signatures necessary, not more regulations.

  2. January 21, 2015 at 1:03 am

    Good post. I learn ssomething totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day.
    It will always bee exciting tto read through articles from other writers and practice something from other sites.

  3. Merlyn Schutterle
    January 21, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    What about independents? When I ran for office, I didn’t have to have my petition in until by the June primary. Now, as I understand it, independent candidates have to have their petitions in April? It wasn’t a problem then, so why is it a problem now? If it wasn’t broken, why did they fix it?

  1. January 22, 2015 at 8:51 pm
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  3. January 27, 2015 at 8:20 pm
  4. January 29, 2015 at 11:30 am
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