SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — South Dakota petitioners are praising a legal ruling striking down a state law that would have placed new requirements on those who collect signatures on ballot measures. A federal judge has ruled that House Bill 1094, passed by the Legislature last year, violates First Amendment rights.
House Bill 1094 was scheduled to go into effect this summer. It would have required people who circulate petitions to provide personal information to the Secretary of State’s office in order to register, much like a political lobbyist. Supporters say the law was needed to provide more transparency in the petitioning process. But opponents say the law goes too far.
Melissa Mentele’s ballot group New Approach South Dakota helped collect petition signatures to try to get voters to overturn House Bill 1094.
“The whole reason we have this practice in the state is so citizens can change laws,” Mentele said.
But the fate of House Bill 1094 switched from a petition drive to the courts, where a judge ruled new requirements on circulators are too much of a burden.
“It’s a great victory. It doesn’t take away the changes that are already made, but it does make it so we’re not doing additional work and we are able to get more people to get involved because they don’t feel like we’re invading their privacy,” Mentele said.
Mentele is particularly concerned about the requirement that circulators disclose their email addresses and phone numbers.
“There’s some danger there also, especially for our female circulators. because you know, what’s your phone number? They’re able to call them. They’re able to harass by email,” Mentele said.
But the bill’s primary sponsor in the Legislature says the extra scrutiny is needed to maintain the integrity of the petitioning process and stop out-of-state influence in our elections.
“It’s a bad day for the rule of law in South Dakota. I think that this bill is designed to ensure that the people who are circulating are South Dakota residents,” Rep. Jon Hansen, (R) Dell Rapids said,
Hansen says it will be up to the state to decide whether or not to appeal the judge’s ruling. Hansen says it’s possible the Legislature could rework the bill during the upcoming 2020 session, but he stands by the measure’s constitutionality.