Two men are challenging one of the pay day loan measures proposed for South Dakota’s November ballot. The challenge affidavit is just six pages long, but it claims 7,600 petition signatures are invalid. However, the man who wants to cap loans says this is just a desperate attempt by the lending industry.

Initiated Measure 21, which would cap the loan interest rates at 36-percent, is the measure the payday loan industry claims would kill their business in the state.  It is one of two payday loan measures you’ll see on the ballot.  One of the two challenging the effort is a former employee of Secretary of State Jason Gant.

Steve Hildebrand, an organizer for South Dakotans for Responsible Lending, says he’s trying to help low income people avoid payday loan debt.  He says his signatures are valid.

“It’s a last minute ditch effort,” Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand does not seem surprised someone is challenging his petitions. He has faced similar road bumps in the past, and in short, he says it is all part of a plan to keep him off the ballot.

“What these two knuckleheads have done is challenge the Secretary of State, saying you didn’t do your job reviewing this petition drive and you should have invalidated more signatures,” Hildebrand said.

On December 28th, the Secretary of State’s office employees announced they had gone through the signatures and the petitions for this measure were officially certified.  Opponents had 30 days to challenge the petitions. On Wednesday, exactly one month after the documents were certified, opponents took action.

The man who filed the challenge is Aaron Lorenzen, a former auditor for Faulk County and a former Director of Elections for the Secretary of State’s office.  He claims nearly 2,300 signatures are from unregistered voters.  Another bullet point claims more than 2,900 signatures come from from questionable home addresses.  Other claims include instances of information that is allegedly missing.

Hildebrand believes the payday lending industry is paying Lorenzen to do this.  We wanted to ask Lorenzen if this is true, and we will let you know when he responds to our questions.  However, according to the paperwork, he was “retained by opponents” of the 36-percent initiative.

Hildebrand says this effort to slow him down will not cost him much time, but it will be expensive for taxpayers.

“What we do is take that challenge and all these specific itemized deficiencies listed, and we will review them one-by-one,” Krebs said.

A more extensive review could take two months and require the Secretary of State’s office to spend more money to pay the people who are looking at each and every alleged discrepancy.  Krebs did not have an estimate for how much it could cost.

Hildebrand says he is ready to fight, and says he is confident he will win. 

“We’re not going to challenge them with the Secretary of State.  We’re going to challenge them at the ballot,” Hildebrand said.