SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Greg Baldwin wants more options on his election ballots.
The state chairman of the South Dakota Libertarian Party is happy his political party, officially recognized by the Secretary of State’s office, will be able to give voters another option.
Libertarian candidates will be on the November ballot for statewide races U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governor, secretary of state and state auditor. In the case of the U.S. House race, Libertarian candidate Collin Duprel is the only candidate challenging Republican incumbent Dusty Johnson.
“It seems we’re in desperate need of more voices, more choices on the ballot,” Baldwin told KELOLAND News. “Competition breeds innovation. Steel sharpens steel. The more people you have on the ballot, the better. You’re going to get debates and you’re going to get people talking about the issues.”
Baldwin admitted he’s rather new to South Dakota politics, only getting involved with the Libertarian Party when it became officially recognized by the state in 2016. Baldwin said the Libertarian Party has existed in the state for 30 years dating back to 1992, but the party continued to lose ballot access and then lose registered voters.
A lengthy lawsuit won by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party helped ease the path for the party’s candidates to qualify for the ballot. In 2018, a federal judge ruled South Dakota’s ballot access laws were too restrictive for newly-qualifying parties.
Part of the argument was new parties didn’t have enough time to gather the required amount of signatures in the time frame allowed (Jan. 1 to the final Tuesday in March).
“The legislature had to go back and write a subsequent law, which ended up being South Dakota codified law 12-5-25,” Baldwin said. “That allows us to nominate candidates at our annual state convention.”
Baldwin said if the Libertarian Party had multiple candidates, it would hold a primary similar to the elections involving many Republicans on Tuesday. He noted independents are not part of any official political party and are left out of primary elections. Baldwin said independent candidates also face a tough road for ballot access because they’re not an official political party.
“They don’t get the same protections or benefits that the other political parties do. So their signature thresholds can actually be higher,” Baldwin said. “Our Libertarian party has opened the doors. We’re willing to work with people. If we can agree on eight out of 10 issues, we can work with them. We hope South Dakota voters listen to what our candidates have to say.”
According to the secretary of state’s office, Independent candidates would need to gather 3,393 signatures for U.S. Senate, U.S. House or governor. That’s far more than the 1,730 for Republicans or 1,615 for Democrats for the same spots.
Republican voters increase ahead of primary
The breakdown of registered voters in the most recent election in South Dakota was 286,331 Republicans, 150,933 Democrats, 141,076 independents, 2,651 Libertarians and 1,380 listed as other.
From May to June, Baldwin said he noticed a dip in the number of registered Libertarian candidates.
“I couldn’t help but wonder, did those few people decide they wanted to vote in the Republican primary,” Baldwin suggested. “On my ballot, there was nothing to vote on other than Constitutional Amendment C.”
Registered Democrat and independent voters also decreased from May 1 to June 1 ahead of the primary election. Democrats lost 677 registered voters and independents lost 118 registered voters. Registered Republican voters increased by 2,715 in the same month.
Baldwin said with more than 140,000 South Dakotans deciding not to call themselves a Republican or Democrat, there needs to be ballot options.
“I’m in favor of more options, more independents. I wish the Constitution Party still had ballot access,” Baldwin said. “There’s so many seats running unopposed and we need more options. That’s just the bottom line.”
Many Republican lawmakers already headed to Pierre
For the 105 seats in South Dakota’s Legislature, Baldwin pointed out how many are already automatically given to Republican candidates because of a lack of opposition.
In the Senate, 21 Republican candidates only had primary opponents or were unopposed. In the House, there are 18 seats with Republican-only candidates.
“Will these 39 people go out and do some sort of campaigning this summer, even though they don’t have an election? Will they go out and talk to voters?” Baldwin asked. “We desperately need more candidates and can’t rely on the Democrats to field all the (other) candidates. So I would have loved to see a lot more candidates come out of the Libertarian Party. If we can double our numbers and start filling some of these gaps, I think it’ll be great.”
Republicans held a 94-11 advantage in Pierre the past two years.
The South Dakota Democratic Party has said it would have liked to have more candidates. Officials also told KELOLAND News the party also wanted to target newly created districts from the redistricting process.
Small in numbers, gaining in exposure
With Duprel being the only other candidate running against Johnson, Baldwin said the Libertarian Party will continue to get great exposure in the voting booth. In 2020, Johnson had to beat Libertarian Randy “Uriah” Luallin 81% to 19%. Baldwin said the Libertarian Party is taking pride in being the only party challenging Johnson.
And despite only having just more than 2,600 registered members, Baldwin bragged about the growing numbers of the Libertarian Party.
“In six years, we’ve managed to about double the size of the party,” Baldwin said. “It’s not near enough and not fast enough for our liking, but we’re a small party. There’s so many people that don’t know who or what the Libertarian Party in South Dakota is.”
Baldwin encouraged interested people to visit the party’s website — lpsouthdakota.org — and visit Libertarian Party candidate websites ahead of the November election.
As a goal, Baldwin said the party is really aiming to get a legislator elected. He pointed to Nebraska where state Senator Laura Ebke switched parties to Libertarian and 12,000 registered voters followed suit.
“If we could do something like that in South Dakota, prove that we’re viable and prove that we can get people elected, the people will follow,” Baldwin said. “It scares me when you have super majorities. They can do whatever they want.”