Legislators Look At Changing SD Ballot-Measure Process

KELO South Dakota capitol Pierre legislature

A state lawmaker from Minnehaha County presented his plan Monday for ensuring only South Dakota residents could gather signatures on proposed ballot measures.

Representative Jon Hansen wants to require petition circulators register with the South Dakota Secretary of State office and receive official badges.

The process proposed by the Dell Rapids Republican in HB 1094 would be similar to steps lobbyists take to register for South Dakota’s annual legislative sessions.

State law restricts signature gathering to South Dakota residents but Hansen, a lawyer, said he “witnessed first-hand manipulation” by circulators from other states two years ago.

“It’s supposed to be local, grassroots politics in its purest form,” Hansen said.

Several lobbyists for organizations testified in support. Opponents included Rebecca Turk, a lobbyist for Dakota Rural Action, and former lawmaker Frank Kloucek of Scotland.

Hansen said some circulators on proposed Initiated Measure 26 two years ago moved to South Dakota motels, qualified for a South Dakota driver license, gathered signatures and left South Dakota afterward.

In another example, he said Washington state residents paired with South Dakota residents, gathered South Dakota voters to central points, obtained the voters’ signatures and later had South Dakotans swear they circulated the petitions.

IM 26 would have asked voters whether they wanted to cap amounts that state agencies paid for prescription drugs. State Circuit Judge Patricia DeVaney blocked it from the November general election ballot after she determined there weren’t enough valid signatures filed.

Hansen said transparency should be encouraged up front. He said lobbyists function the same way as petition circulators when lobbyists seek legislators’ signatures on proposed legislation.

The House State Affairs Committee plans to continue discussion of the measure Wednesday.

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