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Madville Times Bill 102: Revise Process for Filling Legislative Vacancies

Last updated on 2014.01.06

Here's the second proposal I've worked up from your suggestions for bills for the 2014 Legislative session. With Governor Dennis Daugaard now considering his seventh appointment for a Legislative vacancy, this bill seems particularly timely. I invite your questions, clarifications, amendments, and rebuttals!

Madville Times Bill 102

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to revise the process for filling vacancies in the South Dakota Legislature.


Section 1.1: If a vacancy occurs in the office of a senator or representative in the South Dakota Legislature, the Governor shall immediately appoint the losing candidate with the highest vote total from the immediately preceding general or special election from the district in which the vacancy has occurred.

Section 1.2: If that losing candidate is ineligible or unwilling to serve, the Governor shall appoint the losing candidate with the next highest vote total.

Section 1.3: If no losing general or special election candidate is available to serve, the Governor shall appoint the losing candidate with the highest vote total from the immediately preceding primary election.

Section 1.4: If no general, special, or primary candidate is available to serve, the seat remains vacant until an election can be held to fill the vacancy.

Section 2.1: If a vacancy occurs in the office of a senator or representative in the South Dakota Legislature, and if the Governor cannot appoint an eligible candidate under the above provisions, candidates wishing to fill that vacancy may circulate nominating petitions for that vacancy. Candidates must submit nominating petitions to the Secretary of State within twenty days of the occurrence of the vacancy.

Section 2.2: If only one eligible candidate submits a valid nominating petition, that candidate automatically assumes the vacant seat for the remainder of the term.

Section 2.3: If more than one eligible candidate submits a valid nominating petition, an election will be held in the district to choose a legislator to fill the vacant seat for the remainder of the term.

Section 2.4: The Secretary of State, in consultation with local election officials, shall set a special election date not earlier than eighty but not later the ninety days after the occurrence of the vacancy.

Section 3: The legislator vacating the seat shall remit to the Secretary of State's office an amount equal to the amount of cash on hand reported on the legislator's last campaign finance statement filed with the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State shall use these remittances to reimburse local election boards for costs incurred in legislative special elections.


  1. Union Co 2014.01.03

    Thanks Cory! This sounds great!

  2. DB 2014.01.03

    2nd place doesn't always correlate to 2nd best.

  3. owen reitzel 2014.01.03

    depends upon what you believe DB

  4. oldguy 2014.01.03

    interesting and maybe even right and fair but will never see the light of day

  5. DB 2014.01.03

    I wouldn't allow a minority vote getter to assume the responsibilities of a person who did attain the majority vote. What if that person lost 98% to 2% and was a neo-nazi or westboro baptist parishioner? Are you going to assume them as your leader based on this bill? There needs to be some sort of petitioning process to allow for the public to void that "next in line" person. I just don't like the possibilities that this bill opens and I feel my concerns are valid, regardless of the party of the outgoing candidate.

  6. mike from iowa 2014.01.03

    From what I've taken notice in American right wing politics,a Westboro candidate would run on the Republican ticket and probably get a majority of votes in right leaning states-Texas,Alaska,SD,and any number of Southern States. Probably won't happen anyway. I'd like to see redistricting done more like iowa does,with non-partisan groups and stop the gerrymandering/95% percent guaranteed re-election garbage that most states and both parties employ.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.03

    Perfectly reasonable, DB. I wouldn't want some neo-Nazi to be the default rep-in-waiting. But let me take the tough-love tack: might such a prospect motivate the local parties to recruit harder, to make sure they always have quality candidates on the ballot?

    Could you live with striking Sections 1.1–1.4, amending 2.1 appropriately, and making every vacancy subject to special election? Or could we add a recall provision to Section 1, allowing citizens to subject a Section 1 nominee to a section 2 challenge if they are unhappy with the runner-up appointment?

  8. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.01.03

    I like it Cory. Thanks for your hard work.

  9. Sid 2014.01.03

    I like the bill except that I would provide it as an amendment to the SD Constitution which would provide for a special election to take place within 60 days of the vacancy and, if the leg is in session, or will commence a session in less than 60 days, then within 30 days. It is important to maintain the separation of powers. Also, the "loser" might be someone who should have lost.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.03

    I'm hoping to avoid constitutional amendments here, Sid. Do we need to amend the constitution to enact the above provisions? My read of the SD constitution says that we can provide for various legislative means of filling vacancies, as long as the Constitution doesn't say otherwise.

  11. Sid 2014.01.03

    Art.III, Sec. 10

  12. Les 2014.01.04

    Never see the light of day, kind of like, " I offer up my hand so you can cut it off". Put a fork in it.

  13. Roger Elgersma 2014.01.04

    Anyone who wishes to resign would not feel free to do so if a member of the opposite party would chose the replacement of if a member of the opposite party would automatically win. So the leader of the party of the person who resigns should appoint the replacement. This would be the house or senate leader of that party. The governor should not since there is supposed to be a separation of power between the legislative and executive branch. It is a conflict of interest for the governor to chose the personel of another branch. That is also why it is better to vote for judges rather than have them appointed.

  14. mike from iowa 2014.01.04

    Kudos to Roger Elgersma. I remember when Daschle was considering a run for Potus and SD wingnuts passed a bill saying Daschle had to vacate his Senate seat to run and Rethug Guv. would replace the Dem with a Rethug. I also remember a Fake Noise femme fatale actively campaigning in SD against Daschle.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.07

    Roger, that's an interesting separation-of-powers point. Perhaps that's all the more reason to drop the gubernatorial appointments and subject every vacancy to special election?

    Having the chamber party leader appoint a replacement keeps powers separate, but it's less democratically accountable. The Governor is elected by and answers to the people of the district with the vacancy. Under a party-leader appointment scheme, Stan Adelstein's replacement would be picked by someone who never faces the voters of District 32.

    So check for the final draft: can we afford to remove the emergency/immediate appointment provision, meaning that a district that loses its senator right before session goes without representation in the Senate for that whole session? Do we dare automatically fill a vacancy with the runner-up from the last election, and leave it to voters to file for recall?

  16. grudznick 2014.01.07

    I fear you will have to go without or accept some individual appointing. How about the other elected fellows from that district? it is bad for the people of the district to not be represented but maybe they should pay the price of electing a quitter in the first place.

    Or, let the other two sort out a replacement. If they can't sort it out then go without. Keep it local.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.07

    I don't mind raising the stakes for quitters. But people do die. They get sick. They have to leave, through no one's fault.

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