Our successful referral of Senate Bill 69—now Referred Law 19!—to a public vote creates the need for the Legislature to conduct some minor yet urgent statutory clean-up when they begin the 2016 Session.
Recall that SB 69 was one of three bills with which Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and the Legislature overreacted and misreacted to Clayton Walker’s and Annette Bosworth’s petition fraud. SB 69, which moved the deadline for submitting nominating petitions back from the last Tuesday of March to the first Tuesday of March, worked in tandem with SB 67, which set the third Tuesday of March as a formal deadline for filing court challenges against nominating petitions. The intent of SB 67 was to ensure that circuit court judges would have a month before ballots are printed to consider and rule on petition challenges.
The Legislature passed SB 67 easily; SB 69 barely survived the House. But now that citizens have put SB 69 on hold with our referendum, we face this deadline snarl:
- SDCL 12-6-4, unamended by the now-suspended SB 69, allows primary candidates to circulate and submit nominating petitions until the last Tuesday of March. In 2016, that’s March 29.
- SDCL 12-1-13, which will take on SB 67’s amendment tomorrow, will require that any court challenges to nominating petitions be filed by the third Tuesday in March. In 2016, that’s March 15.
- With SB 67 in effect and SB 69 not, 2016 nominating petitions filed from March 16 through March 29 will be immune from court challenge.
- SB 67 thus denies South Dakota voters due process and must be repealed.
I recognized this potential snarl-up back in March, when I urged Governor Dennis Daugaard to veto both SB 69 and SB 67. I considered taking out a third referendum petition, against SB 67, but hey! It’s hard enough knocking on doors and asking people to sign two disparate petitions. If after all the explaining we had to do to get folks to sign to refer SB 69, if we circulators had said, “By the way, if you sign to refer SB 69, you have to sign this other petition, too,” that’s when folks would have said, “Forget it, I’ve got TV to watch.”
Pre SB 67, South Dakota Codified Law provided no deadline for court challenges to nominating petitions. None is needed: the Secretary of State’s need to print ballots in time for early voting to begin in mid-April sets an effective deadline for court relief on bogus petitions. We don’t need a special session to fix SB 67’s contradictory timeline, but legislators should put a repeal of SB 67 in the chute and pass it immediately upon their arrival in Pierre next January to ensure due process and petition integrity.