Last updated on 2013.01.18
Judge Mark Barnett has had to fix another of Secretary of State Jason Gant's screw-ups. Yesterday Judge Barnett ordered Secretary Gant to print 25,000 new voter information guides and revise the official online ballot issue explanations (already fixed! see, Jason? It didn't take that long, did it?). Secretary Gant failed to fulfill his legal duty to compile pro and con statements for all ballot issues; he stubbornly refused to publish Senator Stanford Adelstein's (R-32/Rapid City) "con" statement on Amendment P when the Senator made it available. Senator Adelstein thus had to sue Secretary Gant to follow the law.
Senator Adelstein's press release on his and the people's victory over Gant's incompetence and intransigence pours forth verbal gems, but the single most important line is this statement from Judge Barnett: "The Secretary did not comply with the law." Secretary Gant submitted a legal response to the court, claiming to have sent letters to Rep. Hunhoff, Rep. Fargen, and Senator Bradford seeking con letters on Amendment P. He submitted a spreadsheet showing his mailing list and a copy of the form letter. But he did not produce the letters themselves (Bernie? Mitch? Jim? got your letters on file?), and he did not take the stand to testify under oath. Senator Adelstein's lawyer, Patrick Duffy, was able to beat both of Gant's state lawyers and prove that Gant broke the law....
...which leads us to the South Dakota Constitution, Article 16, Section 3:
Officers subject to impeachment--Grounds--Removal from office--Criminal prosecution. The Governor and other state and judicial officers, except county judges, justices of the peace and police magistrates, shall be liable to impeachment for drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office, but judgment in such cases shall not extend further than to removal from office and disqualification to hold any office of trust or profit under the state. The person accused whether convicted or acquitted shall nevertheless be liable to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment according to law.
Senator Adelstein has been beating the "Impeach Gant" drum since June. You can't impeach stupid, but you can impeach "crimes... malfeasance or misdemeanor." And we now have a judge saying the Secretary of State broke the law.
Republicans, Judge Barnett just gave you the legal cover you need to remove one of your biggest embarrassments from office. A Republican Senator has gotten a Republican judge to declare your Republican Secretary of State a lawbreaker. You cannot allow such incompetence and corruption to further degrade the public trust in the Secretary of State's office. If Jason Gant won't do the honorable thing and resign, the first order of business when the Legislature convenes in January should be a majority vote in the House to impeach Jason Gant.
(Of course, if you guys recognize the gravity of the problem, you could get the Governor to call a special session for impeachment... or petition for one yourselves to happen this month. Leaving a crook in charge of the election is pretty serious... and rooting out corruption in high government office would look really good for you incumbents seeking re-election!)
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Bonus Blather: Read Secretary Gant's simpering press release following Judge Barnett's smackdown, and you'll find Newspeak par excellence:
I am satisfied with the ruling of the court today. The court's ruling provides me the opportunity to publish more information to the voters of South Dakota. Hopefully, this additional information will assist South Dakotans in being more informed on the ballot questions on this year's ballot [Secretary of State Jason Gant, press release, October 12, 2012].
"Satisfied" with being told you broke the law? The only satisfaction I can imagine is relief that he didn't get fired on the spot. The ruling does not provide an opportunity; it tells Secretary Gant to do his job and follow the law the way he should have in the first place.