Current, past S.D. officials say 60% requirement would apply to Medicaid-expansion measures

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — If South Dakota voters approve Amendment C in the June 7, 2022, primary elections, a 60% majority requirement would be in force for any measures on the ballot in the following November general election that propose to add or raise taxes or would cost state government $10 million or more per year.

So say the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office, which oversees elections, and Marty Jackley, the past state attorney general. The current attorney general, Jason Ravnsborg, hadn’t yet looked at the topic, according to chief of staff Tim Bormann, who referred the question to the secretary of state.

That means, barring some court order stopping it, the 60% requirement would apply to two possible ballot measures that seek to expand Medicaid eligibility in South Dakota.

The measures, one sponsored by Rick Weiland and Dakotans for Health, and the other from Laurie Jensen Wunder and a coalition of organizations in South Dakotans Decide, are currently circulating for signatures from registered voters. They need to be submitted by 5 p.m. CT November 8, 2021, to Secretary of State Steve Barnett for determination if one or both qualify for the 2022 ballot.

To make the ballot, a proposed constitutional amendment needs at least 33,921 valid signatures. The Legislature can’t change a constitutional amendment that voters pass. Lawmakers however can — and have — changed or repealed initiated measures that voters have passed that become state laws, such as IM 22 in 2016.

Regarding Amendment C, Jason Lutz, the deputy secretary of state, pointed to South Dakota law that says each constitutional amendment, initiated measure, or referred law that is approved by a majority of all votes cast is effective on the first day of July after the completion of the official canvass by the State Canvassing Board.

“You’ll note that if Amendment C is approved by the voters in the June primary election, (the law) would set its effective date as July 1, 2022, thus being in effect for potential measures appearing on the November general election ballot,” Lutz said.

Jackley, who served 10 years as state attorney general after four years as U.S. attorney for South Dakota, reached a similar conclusion.

“Legally and practically it would apply to ballot measures on the 2022 general election ballot, at least until a judge would say otherwise in a likely challenge,” Jackley told KELOLAND News. 

“If Amendment C wins approval by the South Dakota voters in the June 2022 primary election, the election results will be certified approximately 14 days later and become effective law 90 days after the certification sometime in September 2020,” Jackley continued. “Therefore, at the time of the November 2020 election Amendment C would be effective and in the South Dakota Constitution.”

Typically, ballot measures in South Dakota have been voted on in the November general elections or in special elections. It’s unusual to have a constitutional amendment on the June ballot, in part because sometimes there haven’t been statewide primary contests, and voter turnout has always been less than for a general election. A change to Marsy’s Law however was on the 2018 June ballot.

Amendment C found its way to the ballot through Republicans in the Legislature. Representative Jon Hansen brought the original version that called for it to be on the November 2022 ballot. Senator Lee Schoenbeck amended it to put it on the June 2022 ballot.

South Dakota voters rejected an attempt in 2018 to raise the requirement to 55% for passage of any constitutional amendment or revision. That result was 140,730 yes and 167,362 no.

Weiland’s group is campaigning against Amendment C, calling it “A ‘Crackdown’ on Democracy.” Americans For Prosperity recently sent a “Protect Your Money” postcard to households supporting Amendment C Nathan Sanderson from the South Dakota Retailers Association also supported it at a Senate committee hearing. The coalition in South Dakotans Decide so far hasn’t publicly taken a position.

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