Joe Kirby of Open Primaries South Dakota got hold of me yesterday after my blog post on his group’s new open-primary amendment and shared the draft amendment his group has submitted to the Legislative Research Council:
That Article VII of the Constitution of South Dakota be amended by adding thereto NEW SECTION to read as follows:
§ 4. Open Primaries. An open primary election shall be held prior to the general election to nominate candidates for all members of the legislature, members of either house of Congress and the office of Governor. The primary election shall be open to all registered voters. A registered voter may vote in the primary election for any candidate. The two candidates who receive the most votes in the open primary are the nominees for each office. If more than one candidate is to be elected to an office, the number of nominees shall be twice the number to be elected [Open Primaries South Dakota, draft amendment text, submitted to LRC 2017.04.27].
As we can see, this new amendment is not Amendment V, the open non-partisan primary proposal that failed to pass muster with voters in 2016. Kirby tells me his coalition, which includes many figures involved in the V campaign, are going for transparency, both in sharing the text with the press and in the mechanics of the amendment itself. Opponents of Amendment V portrayed its removal of party labels from the ballot as an attempt to hide information from the public. That portrayal was wrong, but Kirby and friends decided to drop that less popular element of V and focus on ensuring that every voter can participate in the primary.
Like Amendment C, this open primary amendment does require that all candidates for the specified offices face each other on a single primary ballot. Independent candidates would no longer be able to petition their way directly to the general election ballot. Each recognized political party would no longer be guaranteed a place on the general election ballot. Independents, Libertarians, Constitutionists, Democrats, and Republicans would all have to have their nominating petitions in by the same date (one would assume last Tuesday in March, no longer last Tuesday in April for Independents) and take their best shot at placing second on the first Tuesday in June.
Kirby says he has talked to at least one Republican who says he opposed V but can get behind this new amendment to open the primaries now that it doesn’t strip party labels from the ballot. Kirby looks forward to talking to more voters and recruiting voters and petition circulators at informational meetings around the state, one of which is scheduled for Monday, May 15, at noon at the Rapid City Public Library.
If the LRC takes its full 15 days to respond to Kirby’s group (hey! 15 days from April 27 is tomorrow, May 12!) and if the Attorney General then takes his fullest sweet time reviewing the amendment and writing his explanation, the open-primary amendment petition could be available for circulation on July 11.