This story has been updated.
PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota voters could again face a variety of proposed state laws and proposed amendments to the state constitution in the 2024 general election. And the sponsors of those proposed changes now have more time to collect signatures from South Dakota registered voters to get their proposals on the ballot.
A three-judge panel for the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in February struck down South Dakota’s requirement that the signatures must be filed with the South Dakota Secretary of State office at least one year before the election. The decision applied to proposed state laws as well as proposed constitutional amendments.
The Legislature responded by changing the signature-submission deadline for proposed state laws and proposed constitutional amendments to the first Tuesday in May before the election. That allows an additional six months to collect signatures on petitions. For 2024, the new deadline for filing signatures on those petitions will be Tuesday, May 7.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley explained the change Wednesday to KELOLAND News.
“Under the previous law, if the ballot measure was to appear on the November 2024 general election ballot, petitioners could start circulating petitions on Nov. 5, 2022, since Nov. 5, 2024 is the date of the 2024 general election. The petition with all signatures would have to be filed with the Secretary of State by Nov. 5, 2023 which is one year to the date of the 2024 general election. That gave supporters of that ballot measure a year to collect the signatures,” Jackley said.
He continued, “The new law states that the petition with all signatures does not have to be filed until the first Tuesday of May of the year in which the measure is to appear on the general election ballot. If the ballot measure was to appear on the November 2024 ballot – petitioners could start circulating petitions on Nov. 5, 2022. They would have to file the petition with all signatures to the Secretary of State by the first Tuesday in May of 2024. The new law gives petitioners approximately 1.5 years to gather signatures rather than the one year stated in the old law.”
The South Dakota Constitution sets thresholds for the numbers of signatures required from registered South Dakota voters for a measure to make the ballot. The threshold for a proposed state law to reach the ballot is signatures from 5% of the voters who participated in the previous election for governor; for a proposed constitutional amendment, the threshold is 10%.
Those requirements equate for the 2024 election to a minimum of 17,508 valid signatures for a proposed state law and a minimum of 35,017 valid signatures for a proposed constitutional amendment.
Here’s a quick look at the measures currently being circulated for signatures and their sponsors (click on the blue highlighted title to read the measure as submitted):
An initiated amendment to the South Dakota Constitution establishing top-two primary elections. Joe Kirby of Sioux Falls has proposed this. It would replace the current political-party primaries for governor, state legislators, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and county offices with at-large primary elections where all candidates for a particular office would compete. The top two vote-getters would advance from the primary to the general election. The attorney general says in his official statement about the possible effects, “The amendment may be challenged on constitutional grounds.”
An initiated amendment to the South Dakota Constitution establishing a right to abortion. Rick Weiland of Sioux Falls has proposed this. It would add to the state constitution some of South Dakota’s laws allowing abortions that had been in place before June 24, 2022. On that date, the U.S. Supreme Court said each state was responsible for deciding whether abortion should be allowed. The court’s ruling triggered a pair of previously dormant South Dakota laws, passed in 2005, that together banned nearly all abortions “on the date that the states are recognized by the United States Supreme Court to have the authority to prohibit abortion at all stages of pregnancy.” The attorney general says in his official statement about the possible effects, “Judicial clarification of the amendment may be necessary.”
An initiated amendment to the South Dakota Constitution prohibiting taxes on anything sold for human consumption. Rick Weiland of Sioux Falls has proposed this. It would ban state sales tax collections on many food items. The attorney general says in his official statement about the possible effects, “Judicial clarification of the amendment will be necessary.”
An initiated measure prohibiting taxes on anything sold for human consumption. Rick Weiland of Sioux Falls has proposed this. Similar to the proposed constitutional amendment, it would ban state sales collections on many food items. The attorney general says in his official statement about the possible effects, “Judicial or legislative clarification of the measure will be necessary.”
Other possible ballot measures at various stages of preparation that could be on the 2024 ballot include:
An initiated amendment that proposes new constitutional language relating to voter-approved measures. Brian Bengs of Aberdeen has proposed this. It would add to the state constitution this sentence: “A measure approved by the electors may not be repealed or amended by the Legislature for seven years from the enacted date of the measure.” It currently is in the period where the public can submit comments to the attorney general regarding the draft explanation of the possible effects. The deadline for submitting comments is July 8.
An amendment to the South Dakota Constitution removing the limitation that a proposed constitutional amendment embrace only one subject. Quincy Hanzen of Sioux Falls has proposed this. She wants to reverse part of a constitutional amendment that the Legislature put on the ballot in 2018 and South Dakota voters approved 62-38%. Specifically, Hanzen wants to remove this half-sentence: “However, no proposed amendment may embrace more than one subject.” The South Dakota Supreme Court in 2021 struck down a constitutional amendment legalizing and taxing marijuana that voters had approved in the 2020 election because it contained multiple subjects.
An amendment to the South Dakota Constitution revising legislative term limits. Brent Hoffman of Sioux Falls, a member of the South Dakota Senate, has proposed this. Currently, as the result of a 1992 amendment, the South Dakota Constitution limits a legislator to election to no more than four consecutive two-year terms in the same chamber. There is no prohibition from seeking election to the other chamber, or later returning to the first chamber. Some current and former legislators have used this leeway to serve more than eight years in one or both chambers; for example, Sen. Jean Hunhoff, first elected in 2000, is serving in her 23rd year and Sen. Al Novstrup, first elected in 2002, is serving in his 21st. Hoffman, a first-year senator, wants to limit legislators to a total of 16 years — eight in the House and eight in the Senate. He tried to get the Legislature to put this question on the ballot through a joint resolution, but a Senate committee rejected it.
The Legislature this year put one proposed constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot. It seeks to update references to certain officeholders and persons in the state constitution by changing the words ‘he’ or ‘his’ to the title of the office or a gender-neutral word such as ‘accused’ or ‘lessee.’ Sen. Erin Tobin sponsored it and has the support of Governor Kristi Noem.
If all of the measures offered so far gather sufficient signatures and qualify for the ballot, there would be eight. That would be the second-largest number in the past decade; the 10 in 2016 included five proposed constitutional amendments, three proposed state laws and two referrals of laws that the Legislature had passed.
According to a summary from the Legislative Research Council, there were nine elections between statehood in 1889 and 2010 when eight or more measures made the ballot.