Senator Mike Rounds apparently can’t debate the merits of Amendment V, the open non-partisan primary proposal. Our junior Senator thus resorts to misrepresenting the proposal as taking away voters’ rights:
“South Dakota’s Constitution gives voters the right to know a candidate’s party on the ballot. Amendment V would strip voters of that right and instead allow candidates to hide information from voters. Voters deserve more,” said Senator Rounds [Vote No on V Committee, press release, reprinted by Dakota War College, 2016.09.22].
Senator Rounds is confused. The South Dakota Constitution does not appear to establish any right to such knowledge of party affiliation.
Amendment V adds sections to Article 7, which deals with elections and the right of suffrage. In Article 7’s current three sections, I find the right to vote for all U.S. citizens age 18 and over who have not been disqualified by mental incompetence or felony conviction, a protection of voting rights for folks who are absent from the state, and a mandate of secrecy in voting. Article 7 says not one word about party affiliation or knowledge to which voters have a right.
Now don’t get me wrong: I think we have a right to know the party affiliation of candidates who want our vote. If I ask a candidate what party she belongs to and she doesn’t answer, I’m going to write a cranky blog post or two. The party affiliation of any candidate and any voter is public record; I just have to go down to the courthouse and look at the voter file. I’m just saying that our “right” to know party affiliation does not appear to be a state constitutional right, any more than my “right” to eat pizza rolls for lunch.
Wherever this “right” to information comes from, Amendment V does not “strip” that “right” from anyone. Again, consider pizza rolls (yes, let’s… yummm). I love pizza rolls. But the government is under no obligation to serve me pizza rolls at the polls (but Shantel! Consider the possibilities for increasing voter turnout! One little amendment to SDCL 12-26-15, and we have 95%+ turnout every time!). The failure of the government to hand me pizza rolls with my ballot strips me of no right.
Likewise party affiliation: Whatever right I have to know my candidates’ party affiliation, policy positions, place of residence, work history, medical history, or tax return status, the government’s declining to print that information on my ballot does not strip me of a right that I can assert and satisfy with a quick Google search on my phone.
If Senator Rounds wants to oppose ballot measures that take away rights, he should come out against Referred Law 19, which erodes our constitutional right to petition by taking away the statutory right of Republicans and Democrats to sign Independent petitions. Senator Rounds should come out against Referred Law 20, which denies young workers equal wage protection in the workplace. Senator Rounds should come out against Amendment S, which practically erodes the ability of state’s attorneys to protect the existing statutory rights of victims of serious crimes by spreading their resources out on notifying victims of petty theft and vandalism. Senator Rounds should come out against Amendment U, which takes away the right of the Legislature and the people to regulate payday lending interest rates through statute and initiated law. But we haven’t heard Senator Rounds say boo about any of those genuine destructions of South Dakotans’ rights.
It’s nice of Senator Rounds to do a favor for his Republican Pierre neighbor Will Mortenson and throw his name onto the GOP monkey pile against Amendment V. It’s just too bad Senator Rounds couldn’t throw some accurate constitutional scholarship in with the deal.