Speaker G. Mark Mickelson has collected at least 160 signatures on his ballot initiative petition to ban out-of-state contributions to South Dakota ballot question committees.
How would I get this usually closely held data? By paging through some of Speaker Mickelson’s petition sheets, which his “Protect Our Ballot SD” team left lying out at their Brown County Fair booth unattended last night:
After yesterday’s drizzle, I took my first walk through the Brown County Fair on a cool and humid evening. While everyone else focused on carnival rides, For King and Country playing the grandstand, and beer in Centennial Village, I went looking for ballot question petitioners. (Such are the fair pleasures of election nerds.) I found none, not even at Speaker Mickelson’s booth. Two clipboards lay on the “Protect Our Ballot SD” table, holding nine partially or full signed sheets between them, turned outward toward passersby with pens beside them inviting folks to sign, but there were no circulators there to explain the petition (there appeared only to be Mickelson’s definitely unconstitutional ban on out-of-state contributions to ballot question committees, not his possibly unconstitutional tobacco tax for vo-tech tuition subsidies), hand out the required disclosure form (which was on the table), keep the petitions secure, or legally witness any signatures.
Which failure is most grievous?
- Petitions don’t sell themselves. Having a petition sitting out by itself says nobody is interested enough in your issue to sit there and promote it.
- Leaving petition unsecured means honyockers like me can walk up, riffle through the pages, and read every name and address of everyone who has signed so far. Petitions are ultimately public documents, but not until the ballot question submits them to the Secretary of State.
- Signed petitions are precious documents. Speaker Mickelson is spending good money (at least on booth space—the only circulator disclosure forms I saw on the table indicated that whoever was supposed to be working the table was a volunteer) on this petition. Leaving Mickelson’s petition unattended (and when I made a final pass by the table around vendor closing time at nine p.m., the petition sheets were still lying out on the table, as if to be left in the open overnight) allows political enemies like those out-of-state Koch brothers or mere pranksters to steal those petitions. Voters’ signatures, just like their votes, are sacred and deserve protection.
- State law requires that circulators witness every signature. If I had scribbled my name on any of those attended sheets, I’d have rendered that sheet invalid. If any of the names I saw on those unattended sheets were added by citizens without a witness, then any circulator who signs the circulator’s oath on those sheets will commit perjury and end up in court and in the news like Annette Bosworth.
Protect Our Ballot? Ha! Mickelson needs to start with Protecting His Petition.
I understand that, as a legislator protecting his prerogative, Speaker Mickelson is more used to attacking the initiative process rather than conducting it properly. But lest he end up with an embarrassing invalid petition or circulators with Bosworth felony raps, perhaps Speaker Mickelson should work with some experienced petitioners who can provide dedicated, well-trained circulators who understand the petition process.
Update 08:04 CDT: I did notice last night that, after my first pass, someone did Speaker Mickelson a minor favor and turned his clipboards over so the signed petition sheets weren’t visible. An interested party checks this morning and finds those flipped clipboards and all other materials on Speaker Mickelson’s table undisturbed.