PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — If you were born after 1996, you weren’t alive back when South Dakota had early presidential primaries. Now a state lawmaker wants to go back in time. And the state House of Representatives wants South Dakota to join him.
The House voted 41-26 Thursday for a proposal from Representative Drew Dennert, R-Aberdeen, to move South Dakota’s presidential primaries to Super Tuesday in early March. They’re currently held in June as part of the statewide and county primaries.
That’s been too late for most presidential primary contests, according to Dennert, who was born in 1995. Since the Legislature moved the presidential primaries back to June after 1996, he said, South Dakota hasn’t been part of any Republican race for the party’s nomination, and Democrats had only one battle still going. That was back in 2008.
“I think that’s a problem,” Dennert said.
He made many of the same arguments — that South Dakota would potentially gain visibility and benefit economically — as state lawmakers did more than 30 years ago, when they split the presidential primaries off to late February, starting in 1988.
His legislation calls for state government to reimburse counties for the additional cost.
Why Super Tuesday? asked Representative Tim Goodwin, R-Rapid City. “Why wouldn’t we pick a date when so many (states) weren’t at the same time?”
Dennert replied that Super Tuesday is the earliest available date, without facing the possibility of “a severe penalty” from the Republican National Committee or the Democratic National Committee. He said choosing a date after Super Tuesday would risk the possibility of the race being settled.
Representative Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, asked why move off the June primary? He said South Dakota would be “shooting itself in the foot.” But Representative Carl Perry, R-Aberdeen, disagreed. “It would enhance our citizens’ voices,” Perry said.
Representative Scott Odenbach, R-Spearfish, said one of his first jobs was as Minnehaha County Republican Party executive director in 1996. He recalled the list of Republican presidential candidates for the February primary. “It was a blast if you were into politics,” he said.
According to the South Dakota Secretary of State office, Republicans had 69,170 voters participate in their presidential primary that year. By comparison 69,461 Republicans took part in the statewide June primary election for U.S. House that year. There were 215,980 Republicans registered for the primaries overall.
“There were some really cool people who came to visit South Dakota,” Dennert said. His bill HB 1116 now moves to the Senate, where it was still without an official sponsor as of Thursday afternoon.