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To the Barricades—or Room 423! Brown Anti-Initiative Bill in Committee Friday!

Senate Bill 166, Senator Corey Brown's spiteful and sinister attack on your right to legislate via initiative and referendum, hits Senate State Affairs tomorrow morning, Friday, at 9 a.m.

Friends and neighbors, now would be a good time to call the members of Senate State Affairs (who include Senator Brown) and tell them to kill this voter-hating bill. As I note in my latest essay for South Dakota Magazine, Senator Brown's bill says we don't trust voters to make good decisions at the polls and we must protect them from their own ignorance by reducing the number of issues they have to vote on. (I'm waiting for the nanny-state chorus here....)

Rick Weiland and Gordon Howie agree that SB 166 is a terrible idea that rejects South Dakota's grand tradition of putting faith in the voters:

“While the two of us have different views on public policy, during the campaign we also found common ground on several issues, one specifically being our belief that the will of our people is all too often ignored by our elected officials in both political parties”, Weiland said. “In our view, one of the clearest and best vehicles to ensure that citizens are heard is the initiative and referendum process–which, it’s worth noting, was started in South Dakota in 1898, and was such a good idea that it was copied by 23 other states”, Weiland added.

“Doubling the signature requirement for initiative and referendum petitions is a terrible idea, and we’re urging South Dakotans to forcefully let their state senators and representatives know that they oppose it. And what is particularly egregious is that the sponsors have tagged it with the 'emergency clause' which, if passed, would make it take effect immediately and, more importantly, mean that it can’t be referred to a vote of the people via a referendum petition”, Howie stated. “If the sponsors really believe that essentially doubling the signature requirement for initiatives and referendums is 'an emergency,' then we fear for their judgment, and what they would call an actual emergency”, Howie added. “In truth, the 'emergency' that these legislators fear is that South Dakota citizens, acting together, will substitute their judgment for that of our legislators. That is not an 'emergency,' its democracy as it’s been practiced in our state since 1898,” Howie said [Rick Weiland and Gordon Howie, joint press release, The Right Side, 2015.02.04].

The Senate State Affairs agenda is crowded tomorrow: they are also taking up Senate Bill 1, the ginormous road funding bill. SB 1 appears first on the agenda, which says the hearing will begin in Room 423 at the Capitol at 9 a.m., then move to Room 414 at 10:00 a.m. There's not telling at what exact time the committee will take up Brown's SB 166, so be there from the opening gavel and listen closely for your opportunity to testify to legislators what a really, really bad idea it is to make it harder to place initiatives and referenda on the ballot.

Update 15:46 CST: If you'd like to e-mail the members of Senate State Affairs, here are their addresses. E-mail them individually, and be sure to use a clear subject line, like "Vote No on SB 166."

If Senator Lederman replies with his bogus line that SB 166 simply brings petition law in line with the state constitution, invoke Bill Janklow. The ever-subtle Bob Mercer posts to his blog a 1975 official opinion from then-Attorney General Janklow, who explained that the Legislature had adopted the current petition signature threshold (5% of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election) in response to the fact that maximum constitutional threshold (5% of "qualified electors," which SB 166 would restore) is too vague and difficult to calculate. No one knows how many qualified electors there are in South Dakota at any given moment. SB 166 would pin petition signatures to someone's wild guess; current law derives signature count from a firm, documented number.


  1. lesliengland 2015.02.05

    tell me Koch boys are not behind this sen. brown??

  2. mike from iowa 2015.02.05

    wingnuts are pretty much wholly owned,thoroughly roasted,heavily salted9campaign contributions,etc) and smoked clear through sides of pork for the koch bros.

  3. mike from iowa 2015.02.05

    iowa sinator,Ivana Kuturnutzov Ernst,only a third year politician,had a 14 million dollar outside campaign contribution advantage over iowa US congressweasel Bruce Braley. Compliments of the koch bros.

  4. Curt 2015.02.05

    One test of legislation is to ask what harm the bill seeks to remedy. Take it away, Mr Brown.

  5. Anne Beal 2015.02.05

    Have you ever talked to your average low information voter? Have you ever talked about these ballot issues and asked how they voted and why?
    I have. Sometimes it's hard to control my laughter. Given the convoluted wording, most people don't even read the entire text as printed on the ballot. They are confused as to what a yes or no vote means. I have met people who were so confused by the language that they actually voted opposite of what they wanted. Others are so ignorant of the issue that they voted, not on the basis of the text on the ballot, but on the basis of some blatant misrepresentation of what it said.
    There's a reason we have a republic, not a democracy. It's because while individuals possess intelligence, large groups of people don't. It's bad enough we have elected representatives voting on bills they haven't read and don't understand, we don't need to magnify the problem.

  6. larry kurtz 2015.02.05


  7. Owen 2015.02.05

    I give you credit Anne for saying what most Republicans are thinking, including Brown. That South Dakotan's are stupid.
    In some ways it's hard to argue with you. They've elected Daugaard, Thune, Noem and topped it off with Rounds

  8. Don Coyote 2015.02.05

    Oooohhh, a 1975 opinion from the AG. How about a 1980 State Supreme Court decision that held that "in order to be a "qualified elector" as denominated in S.D.Const. art. III, § 1, the signer must be an elector who has registered to vote..." and that "any apparent conflict between the terms "elector" as used in the constitution and "voter" as used in SDCL 9-20-8 is only a matter of semantics."

    See Bjornson vs City of Aberdeen

  9. Les 2015.02.05

    What are your thghts on raising the ante on the IR, DC? Pros, cons?

  10. Bob Newland 2015.02.05

    I sent the following message to Sen. Corey Brown…

    "I recommend that if SoDak Sen. Corey Brown thinks it's too easy to get a frivolous issue on the SoDak ballot, he should take his proposal--to double the signature requirement for a ballot issue--to the people.

    "Imagine him attempting to get a signature outside the courthouse. He would say, 'Hi. Would you like to help us make it harder for people like you to have a say in making laws in the 605?' (He'd try to be as hip as he can be. "605" is the SoDak area code, see?)

    "You would say, 'Why would I want to do that?' He would say, 'Because it's too easy now. People are telling us all kinds of shit they want changed.'

    "You would say, 'There's some shit I want changed.' "

  11. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.05

    Excellent response Bob!

  12. Don Coyote 2015.02.05

    @Les: I'm in favor of it but with some modifications. The emergency clause is bs and I'm not even sure it'd pass constitutional muster. It certainly doesn't appear to fall within the two categories necessary for emergency designation:

    (1) For the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, or

    (2) For the support of the state government and its existing public institutions.

    I'd like to see something other than a governor's race vote total. Hell I'm a registered Rep but haven't voted in a governor's race in the last 4 elections because I didn't like Rounds or Daugaard. How about instead total voter turnout after each general election? Or a Presidential election?

    I think the current requirement sets the bar too low especially in light of today's tendency to use paid petition passers. Also the statutes setting these limits were passed in 1939 when getting around passing the petition was a tad more difficult then today especially with the advent of social networking and the internet.

  13. Bob Newland 2015.02.05

    Don, I'm glad you don't vote.

  14. Donald Pay 2015.02.05

    Thanks, Don Coyote. I knew there was a court case on the question of "qualified elector" and "registered voter." That case is about which signatures should count, not the number of signatures required, so it isn't really on point. And, if you follow the logic of the decision you cite, it looks at voter registration as a way for a person to establish that he or she is qualified, but that the registration list can be flawed by having non-qualified persons on the registration list.

  15. Donald Pay 2015.02.05

    Don Coyote, If your concerned about paid petition passers, the righty Supreme Court says it's a matter of "free speech." Money equals speech, you know, in the twisted world of righty law. However, it is Constitutional to make paid circulators identify themselves. Several states do this. And I bet it would be legal to require them to identify who's paying them, how much, etc.

  16. barry freed 2015.02.06

    Anne, how much of the voter confusion is their lack of information and how much is in the writings of the Pro and Con explanations? Many times, it seems they are written with the purpose of confusing and misleading, even for high information voters.
    For example, with the Medical Marijuana IM vote, the Con side was written by the owner of the State's premier drug testing business. That would be fine, he has a right to his own opinions, except his assertions were right out of early 20th Century Refer Madness and almost none of them had anything to do with reality. No wonder voters were confused or scared after reading explanations of the Measure.
    The only reforms we need with IM's is vetting the authors' facts, and eliminating "opinions" from the explanations.

  17. Don Coyote 2015.02.06

    @Bob Newland: I said I hadn't voted in the last four gubernatorial races. You seem to be confusing my refusal to vote in a particular race because of a lack of quality candidates as somehow not voting at all.

  18. Bob Newland 2015.02.06

    If you were in favor of 166, even modified somewhat, I don't think I need to know why you don't vote. I just hope you don't.

Comments are closed.