Either Lee Strubinger isn’t working very hard, or no one is willing to stand up this year and defend Referred Law 19, the Incumbent Protection Plan.
The SDPB reporter interviewed me three weeks ago about Referred Laws 19 and 20. On RL 20, he was able to get hapless sponsor Senator David Novstrup (the man I will replace in the 2017 Legislature) to repeat his feckless wishful thinking that cutting wages gives kids more opportunity. But on RL 19, Strubinger couldn’t find any proponents. To balance my critique of RL 19 as an unconstitutional effort to keep independents off the ballot, Strubinger had to go back to the January 28, 2015, Senate State Affair Committee hearing on Senate Bill 69—the bill that became Referred Law 19—and pull the audio of Senator Corey Brown rationalizing his partisan hijack of SB 69 as a way to “make the process equal”:
“I as a Republican candidate am only allowed to get Republican signatures on a petition,” Brown says. “The same for Senator Sutton as a Democrat is only really allowed to get Democrats to sign on to a petition. What this amendment is intended to do is to say if there are Independent candidates then they shall get their signatures from Independents and not Republicans and Democrats” [Lee Strubinger, “Referred Law 19’s Intent Is to Clarify Election Petitioning Process,” SDPB Radio, 2016.08.15].
I don’t know if Senator Brown still labors under this misconception, but he sold his amendment to the Legislature with the fallacy of treating independents like a political party. Independents do not constitute a political party. Treating them like a political party undermines their very reason for existing: dissatisfaction with existing political parties.
Partisan candidates are very different creatures from independent candidates. Partisan candidates have county, state, and national political organizations that give partisan candidates enormous advantages in getting on the ballot, raising money, knocking on doors, and winning elections. Those enormous advantages far outweigh the minor concession South Dakota petition law grants to independents by allowing them to gather signatures from any registered voter. Even that concession comes grudgingly: statewide independent candidates have to gather more signatures than their Republican and Demcoratic counterparts combined.
Being independent is tough enough; Referred Law 19 only makes it tougher. Take the new silence from the other side (the partisan side, the Republican legislators who voted for it in 2015) as one more sign that you should vote NO on Referred Law 19.
p.s.: Strubinger made a significant error in his summary of the referendum. He says, “A yes vote in November would mean the state law stays in place, whereas a no vote cancels the law.” Actually, a YES vote changes state election law to impose the new burdens on independents and other candidates larded onto RL 19 by Brown and his friends. A NO vote stops RL 19’s changes from taking effect and keeps state election law the way it is, imperfect, but better than what Brown tried to do to it.