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Tieszen: Reviewing Statewide Candidate Petitions is Sec. State’s Responsibility

We have our first official ayes on the petition reform package Secretary of State Shantel Krebs is carrying to the Legislature on behalf of the Board of Elections. The Senate Local Government Committee (remind me, what part of requiring the Secretary of State to review statewide nominating petitions is part of local government?) this morning voted 6–0 to send Senate Bill 68 to the full Senate. SB 68 would authorize the Secretary of State to apply the same random 5% sampling process to statewide nominating petitions that she currently must apply to ballot measure petitions.

Worth noting: I use the verb require while Secretary Krebs would say authorize. Require seems more in line with SB 68's auxiliary verb shall; saying authorize seems to assume a may in the bill.

Our verbal disagreement reflects a legal disagreement: like Secretary Jason Gant before her, Secretary Krebs contended before Senate Local Government this morning that we need SB 68 to allow the Secretary to check petitions. I deem that interpretation invalid: current statute includes no specific ban on the Secretary conducting a review to ensure the validity of a nominating petition. But Secretary Krebs and I interpret legal authority differently, and SB 68 will put us on similar pages.

Senator Craig Tieszen (R-34/Rapid City) expressed some frustration that we need SB 68 to get the Secretary of State's office to take this step to ensure the integrity of petitions and the ballot. In the only discussion offered following Secretary Krebs's statement and response to questions, the Rapid City Senator said he was frustrated last year to see that no one seemed to want to be responsible for checking the validity of petitions. Senator Tieszen said he saw too much back and forth between then-Secretary of State Gant and Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Senator Tieszen didn't say it outright, but we know full well he was referring to this blog's effort to challenge Annette Bosworth's perjurious petitions and the failure of Secretary Gant and AG Jackley to respond to many of the legal questions that challenge raised.

Senator Tieszen also commented on legislative nominating petitions. SB 68 does not require the Secretary to review legislative nominating petitions. Secretary Krebs excused that omission by saying that it's hard enough to recruit folks to run for Legislature without subjecting them to that level of scrutiny... which statement seems odd, given that requiring the Secretary to review legislative nominating petitions imposes no burden on the candidates themselves and would only remove candidates who have broken the law and thus should not be on the ballot anyway.

Senator Tieszen offered a more coherent reason for omitting legislative nominating petitions from SB 68. He reminded us that the typical nominating petition for a legislative candidate requires fifty signatures. He said that if he suspects someone running against him for District 34 Senate has submitted a bogus petition, it doesn't take much work for him to get the petition himself and review all the names. Citizens can easily check a legislative nominating petition; checking statewide petitions with thousands of signatures, said Senator Tieszen, should be the "responsibility" of the Secretary of State.

SB 68 heads for the Senate next; it may well be joined by the other elements of the petition reform package, Senate Bills 67 and 69, which face Senate State Affairs scrutiny this morning at 10 a.m.


  1. mike from iowa 2015.01.21

    So Krebs only wants to "give" the appearance of doing something w/o actually being forced to do it. Sounds like status quo.

  2. Disgusted Dakotan 2015.01.21

    A better measure would be to require the SOS office to put scans of all petitions online immediately as well as a searchable and up to date voter registration list. Our voting registration shouldn't be a cash cow they use to help candidates they like and roadblock for those they don't.

  3. Roger Elgersma 2015.01.21

    With computerized voter lists and computerized signature lists, one hundred percent of the signatures could be checked in a second by the computer. To easy to fight that type of credibility check. As was stated before, being able to decide which ones to check and which not to reeks of partisan manipulating which is the problem Krebs was going to try to make us think she was correcting.
    Also true that we should not be afraid to check people before they run and especially before they win. There seemed to be a thought that Bosworth not be checked just in case she won. That is like letting a kid fall over a cliff before you check if they have a harness on. That is if we want people of good character in government rather than just people of one party.

  4. Bob Mercer 2015.01.22

    Secretary of State Krebs originally proposed that her office check every petition for legislative candidates as well, but Board of Elections members didn't support that idea.

    A check of 5 percent of 50 signatures on a legislative petition would have meant the validation depended on three randomly selected signatures. Statisticians might say that is too small of sample.

    A possible change that might address many of the current petition issues for legislative candidates is to allow the candidates the option to file with the secretary of state or with the county auditor of the county where they live.

    That could largely eliminate the need for using registered mail at 4:59 p.m. on the final day for submitting petitions. Admittedly, there are many more post offices than the 64 county seats (Shannon and Todd use neighboring county seats).

    The auditors could make a digital copy of each candidate's petition and send the digital records by email to the secretary of state.

    If the Secretary of State office then posted all of the petitions on a web site, anyone with Internet access could look at any legislative petition throughout South Dakota's 35 legislative districts.

    It would mean one more set of duties for county auditors and their staffs, however.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.22

    Mike, au contraire: the 5% random sample is not an appearance; it's a significant action that could catch monkey business on statewide petitions. It's still not as good as a complete review, but it's a step in the right direction.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.22

    DD, Roger, and Bob all have good ideas for using technology to make the petition process easier. We could do petitions on iPads quite easily.

    The extra duty for county auditors in taking legislative petitions would be serious but not terribly sweaty. Candidates take out their legislative petitions from their county auditor; there would seem to be some logic to having them return the completed petition to the same official. Again, with fax, e-mail, and computer databases, such an action would not be hard to do. We could even have the county auditors, who know their local voters better than anyone in Pierre, handle the legislative petition review that the Board of Elections doesn't want to do in SB 68.

    And yes, the Legislative petitions should be reviewed in full, not by the 5% sample, which is silly with only a few dozen signatures total.

  7. Troy 2015.01.22


    I think your last commentary answered your questions why election matters are usually signed to the local government committee- local administration of elections. This is the committee that develops the best expertise with regard to the practical implementation matters that surround elections.

    Assigning bills to the right committee is sometimes not cut and dried (Is the wheel tax to fund bridge repair a transportation issue or taxation issue?). I wish I could remember the issue but I remember the time when Joe Barnett was asked "Why are you assigning this bill to my committee?" Barnett said, "X, Y, & Z are the three people in the Legislature who best understand the issue and they are all on your committee."

  8. Nick Nemec 2015.01.22

    Or "I trust X,Y, and Z to vote the way I want, get it to the floor with no amendments." Or conversely, "kill it in committee." Or "State Affairs is swamped, send it to Local Government."

  9. Troy 2015.01.22


    i'm sure it happens but that is not how I remember that situation. As I think of your inference, if there had been "instructions," the Chairman wouldn't have asked the question.

    What I remember it was a technical bill and not controversial. Just an effort to get it right. Nobody complained that I remember and back then the Dem's had a near equal membership.

    I could be wrong but trying to recall, it was something like the FAA came out with some new regs we had to conform state law to and all the pilots were on taxation. The only reason I think it was something like that because the comment said it also included a change in fees because by House Rules doesn't there have to be some tangent of relation to the mission of the committee?

    It sure sucks getting old because my recollections are sure getting foggy. I used to be able to recall details but not so much anymore.

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