Judge rules in favor of Dakotans for Health, slowing SB 180’s requirement for paid petition circulators

KELOLAND.com Original
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — At least part of Senate Bill 180, passed by the South Dakota legislature in 2020 and signed into law by Gov. Kristi Noem, has been suspended according to a ruling from a federal judge. 

Dakotans for Health, a group looking to get Medicaid expansion on the 2022 ballot, filed a lawsuit against Noem, the attorney general and the secretary of state in March. On Thursday, United States District Judge Lawrence Piersol ruled “Senate Bill 180 is severable.” 

Page 1 of SB 180 ruling
Page 1 of SB 180 ruling
Contributed to DocumentCloud by Eric Mayer (KELO-TV) • View document or read text

Pam Cole, a spokeswoman for Dakotans for Health, said Judge Piersol hasn’t issued his full ruling, but ordered a restraining order preventing the state from making personal information from paid circulators public. 

“I had submitted my information under the ruling of SB 180, but I did not like that,” Cole said. “I did not like the fact, as a paid petition circulator, that people could go look up my information, find out my email address, my cell phone; a lot of these ballot measures have a level of controversy. We don’t need that.” 

To meet the threshold of signatures needed to get an initiated measure or constitutional amendment approved for the ballot, Cole said paid workers are needed. SB 180 required paid circulators to register, create a statewide directory of paid circulators, wear an assigned identification number and badge and charge anyone not wearing their badge with a misdemeanor crime.

Dakotans for Health co-founder Adam Weiland said Thursday’s ruling was a victory for democracy. 

“The broad victory here is a victory against these tropes, these anti-democratic tropes, that there’s some sort of justification for making it more difficult for people to participate in the political process,” Weiland said. “The South Dakota Secretary of State could not publicly disclose our paid petition circulators personal information.” 

Cole said she hopes the judge strikes down SB 180 in its entirety. 

“We want to go back to the way it was before (SB) 180,” Cole said. “The Secretary of State does need the paid circulators’ information. We understand that. To make this information public is unconstitutional.” 

The ruling on SB 180 comes two years after a federal judge struck down South Dakota’s Initiated Measure 24. IM 24, sought to ban individuals, political action committees and others outside of South Dakota from making contributions to ballot question committees, was ruled unconstitutional. 

Weiland said the current back-and-forth cycle could be traced back to IM 22, which was passed by voters and repealed and replaced by the legislature. 

“This is another chapter in the conversation between ordinary people participating in the political process and special interests trying to stop that from happening,” Weiland said.

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