House panel blocks attempt to make polling places provide copies of S.D. ballot measures

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota shouldn’t be forced to have copies of ballot measures available at each voting booth when people go to the polls in future elections.

The South Dakota House State Affairs Committee made that decision Monday morning, rejecting 7-6 a plan from Representative Fred Deutsch (pronounced doytsh).

The Florence Republican originally proposed that sponsors of ballot measures be responsible for providing copies to voters, including by mail, with the sponsors paying the costs for the copies.

After that idea met resistance, Deutsch softened it. He suggested the South Dakota Secretary of State pay for putting copies at approximately 16 voting booths at each of 565 polling places.

“The purpose of the bill is to help develop more well-informed electorate. And as we all know, on occasion, some voters may go to the polls with the full good intention of reading the amendment before they go, but sometimes that doesn’t happen,” Deutsch told the committee. “So this is an attempt to help those voters by creating a situation where at the polls there will be copies of the initiated measure or the constitutional amendment available to read, if they want to pick it up and read it.”

He didn’t provide a potential cost estimate for his original plan. The estimated cost from the Legislative Research Council staff for the amended version was $2,675.84 per measure.

“It’s a minimal amount, and I think it’s appropriate that the state takes care of it,” he said.

More than 400,000 voters marked ballots yes or no in the November 3 election on two measures to legalize medical and recreational marijuana and a third legalizing sports wagers in Deadwood.

Representative David Anderson, a Republican from rural Hudson, said his polling place already made copies available. He voted against the legislation.

Representative Kevin Jensen, a Republican from Canton, said his polling place didn’t. Jensen, who lives in the same legislative district as Anderson, voted in support.

Deutsch was the only witness who testified for it.

The original legislation was opposed by Jim Ackerman of Pierre and Rebecca Terk of Rapid City, who lobbies for Dakota Rural Action. Both have been active in ballot measure groups.

“I’m sensitive to the input, emails that I’ve received, and the opponents’ concerns, and that was one of the reasons that I made the change,” Deutsch said.

Representative Tim Goodwin, a Republican from the Rapid City area, said he was concerned about spreading COVID-19 when multiple people touch the same copy.

“I just don’t want to have where we kill a million trees over this deal,” Goodwin said.

Deutsch replied, “God willing, COVID will come to an end, shortly.”

House Republican leader Kent Peterson of Salem asked about people who vote by mail. Deutsch said they could get information through their computer monitors.

“So this is just a way to help the voter if they haven’t done their legwork previously,” Deutsch said.

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