SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Jim Holbeck believes there’s too much corruption in South Dakota government.
His experience trying to fight Amendment C has only hardened that belief. In January, Holbeck and David Owen filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Steve Barnett and Minnehaha County Auditor Ben Kyte arguing Amendment C violates the single-subject rule in the South Dakota Constitution.
Despite the legal challenge, Amendment C remains on the ballot for the 2022 primary election, which is set for Tuesday, June 7, but early voting has already started.
Last week, a motion for default judgment was denied after the South Dakota Attorney General’s office successfully argued it would not accept being notified of the lawsuit by certified mail.
“It seems like the connections are thick in this state and that people end up scratching each other’s backs. That’s what happened here,” Holbeck told KELOLAND News. “It’s a shame that we play these games to stall things so that we cannot make these decisions when we need to make them.”
While their pre-election challenge was successfully delayed, Holbeck said he remains confident Amendment C could face a similar fate as Amendment A. In the 2020 general election, voters passed Amendment A with 54% support. After a court battle, the South Dakota Supreme Court struck the measure down more than a year after the election.
“I’m not on the Supreme Court, obviously, but they looked at the marijuana law and they said that had two different subject matters on it,” Holbeck, a former government teacher and Harrisburg superintendent, said. “By golly, there’s no doubt in my mind this has two subject matters on it.”
The language of Amendment C on the ballot says it would require a 60% threshold for future ballot measures “imposing taxes or fees or obligating over $10 million.”
“It says either raising taxes or spending money,” Holbeck said. “People could be for one or the other. I think what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. This is just wrong.”
Future legal challenges against Amendment C also concern Republican lawmaker Tim Goodwin. The Rapid City Representative told KELOLAND News something needs to change so ballot measures face a higher legal threshold before making the ballot rather than being challenged after the votes are counted.
“They go to vote and it doesn’t count,” Goodwin said. “They got to wait for a year and a half for what they voted for to be legal or illegal. That’s wrong. That’s not democracy.”
Goodwin didn’t want to comment about the process with Holbeck’s lawsuit, but added the Secretary of State’s office’s Primary Ballot Question Information Pamphlet noted a lawsuit has already been filed deeming Amendment C unconstitutional.
Holbeck said the obstruction to his lawsuit should not happen for future questions on ballot measures. Holbeck called Amendment C a trick because lawmakers were able to get the measure on the primary ballot when voter turnout is lower. He said it also didn’t allow the court system enough time to look at the law before it made the ballot for voters.
“It’s a waste of taxpayers time and money to have something on there before the ruling is made by the Supreme Court,” Holbeck said. “In my mind, everyone should vote against this.”
The state’s single-subject rule puts much of the burden on the court system after voters have voted one way or the other. Goodwin said it’s a recipe to get people upset and not participate in elections.
He said he’d be willing to sponsor a bill to force the court system to make sure ballot measures would be legal or not if enacted.
“This isn’t a partisan issue. This is just realistic, common sense stuff,” Goodwin said. “When people vote for it, their vote counts and it doesn’t go to the courts.”