The press is just starting to get a grip on the more complicated of the two laws this blog is helping to refer to a public vote. Senate Bill 69 includes 24 sections of niggly little changes in dates and vote counts and percentages affecting the conduct of nominating petitions and petitions for organization of new political parties. You can review my detailed summary of the effects of SB 69 on your voting rights here, but I’m happy to let AP boil the bill down to one sentence:
Liberal activist Cory Heidelberger filed a petition in late March to begin such a campaign. Heidelberger said he is working with a politically diverse group of South Dakota activists to push back against the legislation, which Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed on March 20.
“Voters are having their rights taken away,” Heidelberger said [James Nord, “Activists Working to Block Election Law from Taking Effect,” AP via Times-Union, 2015.04.08].
Independent rights, Republican rights, Democratic rights, Libertarian rights—every voter’s rights.
Senator Ernie Otten (R-6/Tea), who helped bring the amendments that turned Senate Bill 69, burbles some vague pablum to the AP to demonstrate he either does not understand or dares not admit the harm his amendments do to your voting rights:
But Republican Sen. Ernie Otten, who worked on the legislation, said that the law changes make sure political parties are treated equally. He said the law is a “good compromise” and could help smaller political parties get out their message and grow.
“We were pretty sure that it was going to get challenged by them, and I guess the voters can have their say in it,” Otten said [Nord, 2015.04.08].
Hang on, Senator Otten: you were pretty sure it was going to get challenged? I wasn’t sure it was going to get challenged until just a couple weeks ago. Whence cometh your certainty?
In what ways does SB 69 make sure political parties are “treated equally” in any way that they suffer inequality now? I don’t see any inequality in the previous thresholds. SB 69 brings no changes that make the parties more equal. “Treating parties equally” sounds like a red herring that avoids the net negative impacts on all voters.
And where is this “compromise” that Senator Otten thinks sounds good for the reporters?
Otten said it’s important to give citizens enough time to challenge nominating petitions. He also said the new petitioning period is balanced because it includes the winter holidays, which means more people will be at home when candidates are knocking on doors.
“I think that we came up with something pretty middle of the road,” he said [Nord, 2015.04.08].
The only way in which SB 69 attempts to help citizens challenge petitions is by moving the petition submission deadline date three to four weeks earlier. However, SB 69 also sets an earlier deadline for filing court challenges against nominating petitions, meaning the effective increase in time we have to research and submit challenge affidavits to court really isn’t that much greater than it is now. Plus, SB 69 fails to extend the narrow five-day window citizens have to submit petition challenges to the Secretary of State. Senator Otten and his colleagues did nothing to help citizens gain access to petitions and to the voter registration lists necessary to properly research a challenge; those documents remain cost-prohibitive for many citizens.
And seriously, Senator Otten: you think allowing petition circulation during the winter holidays—shorter, colder, darker days when people are gathering with family and friends to think about something other than politics—somehow “balances” the loss of warmer, brighter weeks after the Legislative session for talking to voters and getting signatures? Are you thinking through reality, Senator Otten, or are you just making excuses for your chipping away of voting rights?
Senate Bill 69 is not middle of the road unless you are measuring from Senator Otten’s preferred extreme of shutting down elections and letting the GOP monolith appoint all legislators (which is kind of what happens now that Republican legislators keep quitting).
I look forward to more press coverage of the complicated Senate Bill 69, since it will draw out more legislators like Senator Otten to say absurd things about their assault on your voting rights.