SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A local advocacy group is seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction against a recent county rule regarding petition circulation.

Dakotans for Health is currently collecting signatures to place an amendment on the 2024 ballot to legalize abortion in South Dakota. The group claims that Minnehaha County’s rule to establish designated areas in front of the Minnehaha County Administration building and courthouse is a violation of the First Amendment.

“South Dakota has a longstanding tradition of enacting laws and changes to the state constitution using the citizen initiative process,” co-founder Rick Weiland said in a statement. “People have been collecting signatures for generations and these new rules make that a lot more difficult. What they have done is unconstitutional and it is another attack on direct democracy.”

County auditor Leah Anderson requested the policy to address the “increase in activity” of those collecting signatures as well as opposition to the ballot amendment. The Life Defense Fund, led by Republican Rep. Jon Hansen, was formed to encourage people not to sign the ballot initiative.

The commission voted 5-0 last week to set up designated areas in front of the Minnehaha County Courthouse and Minnehaha County Administration Building. You can see the two areas marked in yellow in the photos below. 

Anderson said people gaining signatures shouldn’t be allowed to stand on the sidewalks near the entry doors to the administration building. She said there’s concerns about making the county building as accessible as possible without people trying to gather signatures standing in the way. 

Commissioner Dean Karsky asked Anderson how the county would be enforcing the new policy. 

“I’m not going to watch the parking lot all day,” Anderson said during the May 2nd meeting. “For their safety, it would be best if they are there and in that area.” 

Deputy State’s Attorney Eric Bogue said the key words are “time, place and manner” and the county is providing space for people to exercise their rights to petition. 

“Still allow them a place of some prominence and visibility to get their petitions and or do whatever other political activity, First Amendment activity, that they would like to engage in,” Bogue said.