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Gant Rejects Johnson Petitions, Titled “Lake” Not “District 8”

Last updated on 2014.07.31

Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh! When it comes to running for Senate, I guess we District 8 Dems are cursed. In 2010, we didn't get our Senate candidate, Clark Schmidtke, on the Dem ballot because we sent the petitions to Pierre by certified mail instead of registered mail. (Subsequent cursing followed.)

Now I hear Charlie Johnson's petitions to run for District 8 Senate were timely filed but had the wrong information. The top of the petitions read "Lake County" instead of "District 8." SDCL 12-6-7.1 says that legislative nominating petitions "shall clearly designate the senatorial or representative district for which said individual is a candidate." So does the petition itself:

Invalid Johnson Petition
Invalid Johnson Petition

Dang it to heck! Dang it, dang it, dang it!

There. That's out of my system. I'm not even going to ask Secretary Gant to reconsider and grant a liberal (ha ha! get it?) interpretation of voter intent. Law is law, and a screw-up is a screw-up. Given my morning comments about Stephanie Strong's petition failure, I invite all manner of chortling and verbal abuse from my Republican neighbors.

District 8 remains one of 11 Senate seats that, so far, Democrats have left unchallenged. That's nearly a third of the Senate. Grrr.

On the bright side, down in District 14, Democrat Travis Dahle is going to kick someone's butt and win a Senate seat in November. Dahle and Toft in the Legislature—now there's something to keep hope alive!

Update 20:37 MDT: O.K., I'm home and chillin'. On further review, I notice something pointed out by Mr. Johnson: The statute I cite above requires that the petition "clearly designate the senatorial or representative district for which said individual is a candidate." Look at that petition again: it says on the bottom line that Johnson is seeking the office of "State Senate for District 8." That line appears to offer a technical fulfillment of that statute. If indeed all of the signers were Lake County voters, then the petition is factually as well as technically correct.

Five says to file that appeal, Charlie. I might be on board!

Update 20:59 MDT: Sec. Gant tells MDL's Elisa Sand that, even if the petitions contain the signatures of 42 Lake County voters, the petitions are still invalid. It may be easier to go get 102 new signatures on Indy petitions than to hash this out in court.


  1. Douglas Wiken 2012.03.28

    Are Lake County and District 8 identical?

    [CAH: No: the new District 8 is Moody, Lake, Miner, and Sanborn.]

  2. Douglas Wiken 2012.03.28

    Can the candidate still run as an independent?

    [CAH: Yes!]

  3. Pam Holsen 2012.03.28

    I just don't understand the State Democratic Party not helping out so these type of filing errors don't happen.

  4. grudznick 2012.03.28

    If you can't follow simple instructions on a simple form you have had months to study and complete, I say "BAH" to you.

    Just like how back at the old country school when we didn't write our names on the top of our papers with a blunt number two pencil it was an automatic "F".

    That's the problem with today's young liberals...they've had everything handed to them and think they're above the simplest of rules.

  5. Owen Reitzel 2012.03.28

    I wonder if Gant would have noticed it if it were a Republican? Hopefully Charlie can run as an independent.
    And Grudznick the young Republicans don't have the same problem?

  6. Steve Hickey 2012.03.28

    My signatures were tossed out last week and I had to scramble to re-file by the deadline... I put "republican primary June 2012" and apparently it had to say "republican primary June 5, 2012." I tried to protest and say there is only one republican primary in June 2012 and made the plea that this was a SOS discretionary call. He said the way to appeal it is through the courts -pretty sure he's not picking on Democrats only. Munsterman had to redo his also, as did a half a dozen others as of last week - so I've heard. The lesson here is to file early enough in case there is a problem, and/or get the SOS to ok the petition before you circulate it.

    [CAH: point well taken, Steve! From now on, file in January!]

  7. Bill Fleming 2012.03.28

    Bureaucrats. Hmpf.

  8. Bill Fleming 2012.03.28

    p.s. Grudz, you can't even get your gravy tater order straight. Who are you tryin' to kid?

  9. Charlie Hoffman 2012.03.28

    Awe Grud; always too busy to call back, but available for blogging. You da Man!!!

  10. Rorschach 2012.03.28

    The nominating petition appears to be an intelligence test of sorts, or at the very least a reading comprehension test. I'm sorry so many appear to be failing. Maybe the legislature can dumb down the test so that in 2014 we can have the whole assortment of dim bulbs to vote for.

  11. Bob Klein 2012.03.28

    But he should still be able to file as an Independent - affiliated with the Democratic Party if he wants.

  12. Charlie Johnson 2012.03.28

    FYI----The petition was filled in by typewriter by the Lake County Auditor's office. I did not fill out the top portion. I did fill out the declaration of candidacy-signed my name and had it notarized by the deputy auditor. As noted on the petition it clearly states that I'm running. for District 8 Senate seat as a democrat. Of the 73 signatures nearly all them came from Lake County residents. No portion of lake County lies outside of District 8. One would assume that he/she as they leave the auditor's(which is under the supervision of the SOS office)with a candidate petition that is was correctly filled out. The SOS decision was wrong and inaccurate. I lay no blame or bad feelings for the Lake County Auditor's office.

  13. Troy Jones 2012.03.28

    I agree with Rorscach. Why should we expect a person to draft clear laws or assess the meaning of a law when the can't even follow the simplest of laws.

  14. Charlie Johnson 2012.03.28

    Grud and Rorschack---Care to tell others your name? BTW---I'm far from being dim lit bulb. Only people who hide behind pseudo names might qualify for that title.

  15. Rorschach 2012.03.28

    Maybe I was too harsh and judgmental Charlie Johnson. But as Harry Truman said, "The buck stops here." Maybe someone else didn't fill out the top correctly, but ultimately the buck stops with you. That petition and the instructions that go with it are not written in some foreign language.

    Now how would Stephanie Strong be expected to read a 1,000 page bill when she didn't even read the instructions on her petition? How could we trust a statehouse candidate to read and understand a bill when they don't read and understand the instructions on their petitions? For heaven's sake if you don't understand something then ask somebody. It's better to ask than to wind up with egg on your face watching from the sidelines.

  16. Bernie 2012.03.28

    The form needs to be fixed. Several candidates from both parties in Yankton County had the identical issue. As I recall, you are instructed to enter the county OR the district, so filling in the county name seems to fulfill the requirement and that is what auditors are used to doing.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.03.28

    Rohrshach, Grudz, personal critique here could use some backing with a real name.

  18. Charlie Johnson 2012.03.28

    You are right Cory, the petition on it's face is factual and correct and meets state law. The SOS needs to follow state law under 12-6-7. Mr Grud and mr. R I do know how to read codified law. Perhap you are the ones that need a refresher.

  19. Karl Schmidt 2012.03.28

    I've noticed that since the Argus Leader went to using Facebook as the sign-in, the litany of noms de guerre declined sharply. My least favorite frequent commenter was 'Midwest Norwegian', who was about as hateful a person as you could imagine.

    I think if people want to express an opinion in a public forum, they should have the fortitude to use their real names. Anonymity is for cowards.

  20. Becca 2012.03.28

    Here in Nebraska, we'very watched the Republican party do everything in their power and trying to get the courts to rule outside the law to get a Democratic US Senate candidate tossed out of the race. Why? Because they know they can't beat Mr. Bob in a good ol' fashioned race. So I guess, take it as a compliment? If you refuse to use common sense in politics, then I guess it seems to be on par for the norm anymore.
    P.S. ... Becca is my real name :-)

  21. John Hess 2012.03.28

    So go as Independent. Seems like that was your intent. To bring up issues as much as win. Why don't you let people know where you will be (the public library, the coffee shop, etc.) so we can show up and sign. Maybe a school event (joking).

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.03.28

    Nonetheless, Becca, I hear Rep. Hickey's point: Gant has nuked some GOP petitions here as well for similar technicalities.

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.03.28

    John, you suggest the easier and more palatable course. Doing petitions isn't that hard when you have time to double-check everything. Independents need more signatures, but you can take any registered voter's signature, including all those who helped the first time. Circulating an Indy petition could be a chance to get some Republicans to express their dissatisfaction with their current representation.

  24. John Hess 2012.03.28

    Between noon and 1 at the court house.

  25. grudznick 2012.03.28

    Somehow my comments, truth and all, are have been deleted. I'm not sure what I did to deserve that other than poke Mr. H. a little more closely than he apparenly likes to be poked.

    I guess in "debate" that means "grudz +1". But I don't know diddly, as I'm just an ignorant old fart. Just as my good friend Bill.

  26. Rorschach 2012.03.28

    Checked the Secretary of State twitter feed. Looks like Rep. Hickey avoided a primary when his potential opponent Mike Austad had his petitions rejected.

  27. Troy Jones 2012.03.29

    Whether it be Strong or Johnson, I have one thing to say:

    Read the instructions.

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.03.29

    I can't argue with you there, Troy. Candidates face enough opposition that will be looking for any little mistake in speech or action to trip them up. Candidates have to have all of their poop in a group.

    But I wonder: when any citizen goes to the county auditor's office for an official form, what expectation can the citizen have that the form will be filled out correctly by the officials in charge?

  29. Matt Groce 2012.03.29

    Cory, let's say you give you students a French test. Your students answer every question correctly, they do so following every rule you've set, and the do so in a timely manner. While correcting the tests, you notice that you made a mistake in creating the test. Would you give an incomplete or an "F" to every student because of your error?

    Charlie asked his local election official for forms that could put him on the ballot, and he was denied those forms. Somebody in this comment section used the phrase, "the buck stops here." Well I believe that phrase applies to Secretary Gant. The Lake County Auditors office, an extension of his office, failed to give valid nominating petitions. The buck stops at the SOS office, that office has denied the will of the voters of District 8.

  30. Charlie Johnson 2012.03.29

    For all the skeptics out there, has anyone read 12-6-7.1? It still stands that the petition on it's face value meets the requirement of the code. Problem with the petition is not the auditor's office, Charlie Johnson, or the petition itself. It's the fact that the SOS is not validating a perfectly legal petiton.

  31. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.03.29

    Clearly someone in the chain of election management isn't communicating. The county auditor thought placing the county atop the form was correct. The secretary of state deems it incorrect. On Facebook, Bernie Hunhoff mentioned a similar misunderstanding in Yankton County. Our elections officials need to get on the same page.

    Matt makes a fine analogy to test-taking. The teacher's screw-ups don't invalidate the students' work.

    And I would still like an official opinion on Charlie's read of state law. His petition indicates clearly what office he is running for. Does that later line on the petition satisfy that statutory requirement? Or is there an equal obligation that the petition clearly indicate what voters are eligible to sign the petition?

  32. Matt Groce 2012.03.29

    Going back to the school analogy for a moment. With all the mistakes that seem to have been made this year, Sec. Gant is most defiantly not in the top 10% of anything. No bonus for you sir.

    Maybe we should cut his pay until his office shows he can get it together? It seems we keep putting more and more money into the SOS office without any results to show for it. Throwing money at that office is not the answer, we need accountability.

  33. LK 2012.03.29

    I agree Matt.

    In fact, under a No Candidate Left Behind law 100% of the candidates in all economic, ethnic, and political subgroups must be proficient. Clearly, the Secretary of State's office needs to undergo an office improvement plan.

  34. Bob Klein 2012.03.29

    Best result might be obtained by an appeal and the indy petition.

  35. Steve Sibson 2012.03.29

    First off I agree that Charlie Johnson's petitions should be accepted. I would like to note that his option to run as an Independent was attacked by the SDGOP this session by cutting the time to file Indy petitions to the last Tuesday of April (HB1182). It goes into effect July 1, so it will be in effect by the 2014 election cycle. And remember Tom Dempster had to run Indy due to his rejected petitions.

  36. WayneB 2012.03.29

    I'm not surprised the error was on the part of a county auditor. My work with them has been largely frustrating getting census district information updated. It's disheartening to learn the lack of technical ability and knowledge housed in the personnel of the office.

    However, to their credit, Lake County was one of the better counties to deal with when it came to confirming district alignments... so if even they have troubles filling out this form, I fear for the competency of others.

  37. Douglas Wiken 2012.03.29

    The problem with forms (and software) is that they always make perfect sense to the designers. Unless they test them with multiple people who have never seen anything like it before, they may not realize how counter-intuitive is their design.

    Without looking at such a form, it appears that the form should ask something like,"Legislative District Number_____. This petition is being circulated in this or these counties ________________________________."

  38. Charlie Johnson 2012.03.29


    Also the form appears to be generic for all races at all levels of govt' in SD. It might be easier if there were a form for each type of race.

  39. Joel Rische 2012.03.29

    I'm a little behind the 8-ball on this, but I agree with Mr. Johnson's reading of the state statute. However there is another statute I found more interesting:
    12-6-64. Liberal construction of primary election laws. The laws of this state pertaining to primary elections shall be liberally construed so that the real will of the voters may not be defeated by a mere technicality.

  40. John Hess 2012.03.29

    So Russell goes uncontested? About 3 years ago I watched him carry his signs from his trailer to hang them in the ditch. "Vote for Russell." He's hoofing it like everybody else. Charlie, tell me where to go and I'll sign. You're on Facebook and Cory's blog. Use the new media.

  41. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.03.29

    Joel, that statute is key. But we need to spend money to ask a court to interpret it for us. A legal fight would be good fun and maybe a nice way to give Secretary Gant a black eye, but to achieve what matters, challenging and beating Russell Olson, the best course of action may simply be to get five people to walk around for a weekend gathering signatures for Charlie again. One day of hard work, volunteer labor, some face-to-face campaigning—hardly any down side to that!

  42. Steve Sibson 2012.05.21


    That is good news.

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