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.