Belfrage Agrees: RL 19’s Restricting Voter Rights and Targeting Independents “Troubling”

KELO Radio’s Greg Belfrage agrees with me that Referred Law 19 is bad policy. In our interview yesterday, I listed the three main disadvantages of the Legislature’s bad election reform bill: forcing candidates to circulate and submit petitions earlier, requiring Republicans and Democrats to collect more petition signatures, and taking away registered party members’ right to sign petitions for independents. Belfrage focused on the independent issue:

Belfrage: I agree with you that the third there especially is troubling. when you’re saying that independents can only—if you’re an independent candidate… under 19, you would only be able to get petition signatures then from registered independents. You couldn’t have Democrats or Republicans who say yeah, I’d support you…. For many independents, that’s kind of the nature of their campaign is they raw broad support.

CAH: Absolutely. That is fundamentally—that’s the heart of what being an independent is. An independent isn’t a party member who has an independent party structure to organize and help them get signatures. An independent by definition says hey, I don’t care what party you belong to. I represent everyone, I’m not beholden to one party or one platform. I represent all people…. So it just makes sense that when they seek the nomination, they ought to be able to speak to every voter.

Belfrage: …You articulated the three reasons why you think it is of concern. With #3, for me, I share your worries. Why shouldn’t an independent who’s going to run be able to get the signatures of registered voters, period? [The Greg Belfrage Show, live broadcast, archived online, 2016.10.11].

Remember, Belfrage is a conservative radio talk show host talking to a liberal Democratic blogger. The typical partisan shouter would expect fireworks; instead, there we are on live radio, having a reasonable, respectful discussion and finding common ground in support of basic rights of petition and association.

RL 19’s restriction on independent candidates resonates best with the voters I’ve spoken to. The petition deadline and signature thresholds make running for office more difficult, but the new independents-for-independents-only requirement flatly takes away a right enjoyed by over 420,000 voters. Taking away that right is also unconstitutional (as I explained in March 2015, when Referred Law 19 was still just Senate Bill 69).

Belfrage producer Todd Epp says KELO Radio will have Senator Ernie Otten on air later this month to discuss why he supports taking away rights and choices from South Dakota voters. That conversation is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, October 26, at 8:40 a.m.