The Libertarian and Constitution parties of South Dakota are still suing South Dakota over its burdensome ballot access laws for new political parties. Former Libertarian leader Bob Newland sends his observations on a deposition taken Wednesday of the enforcer of those objectionable ballot access laws, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs:
Yesterday, May 3, I had the distinctly unpleasant experience of sitting through a deposition of SoDak Secretary of State Shantel Krebs taken by ACLU Board Member Steven Pevar. On behalf of the SoDak Libertarian and Constitution Parties and me as a private citizen, the ACLU sued AG Marty Jackleg and SOS Krebs, alleging onerous enforcement of requirements for alternative political parties to attain ballot status in South Dakota.
Krebs described one of the mandates of the SOS as “to ensure fairness in all aspects of the election process.” When asked, for example, how shortening the period during which candidates for office may circulate a nominating petition (a change she endorsed in the legislature), she refused to answer, saying “I have no opinion.”
When asked why it was “fair” to have a candidate for lieutenant-governor or the secretary of state or the attorney general nominated in party conventions, while the gubernatorial candidate must submit to a primary election contest, she again demurred to answer.
For more than five hours, we sat in a room which she insisted had to be 80 degrees (“I am so cold.”) while she exhibited hostility and anger at the imposition of having to defend her politics and actions.
Expect to see Federal Judge Karen Schreier issue a ruling without a trial that will force the legislature to change the laws, which she has already characterized as “onerously restrictive” regarding requirements to put people on the ballot [Bob Newland, e-mail to Dakota Free Press, 2017.05.04].
Newland certainly has a dog in this fight, so I would like to read the deposition itself before passing any judgment on Krebs’s performance Wednesday before a lawyer pressing a lawsuit against her office. I will say, however, that in general, a Secretary of State (or any smart Democrat planning to campaign for the job of chief election officer that Krebs wants to leave so she can go to Congress) should support laws and policies that make it easier, not harder, for citizens to organize parties and run for office. Requiring a new party to organize by the last Tuesday in March, before the dust has even settled from the Legislative Session, before the major parties have made clear what candidates they are nominating for major office, is an unnecessarily oppressive and unconstitutional restriction on the right of minor parties to challenge the failures of dominant parties.
Related: We may need Judge Schreier to make it easier for new parties to get on the ballot, but at least the 2017 Legislature made it easier for new parties to stay on the ballot. Remember that House Bill 1034, signed by Governor Dennis Daugaard in March, included in its many election-related minutiae Section 7, which changes the standard for keeping political party status from the party’s gubernatorial candidate winning 2.5% of the popular vote in the general election to any statewide candidate from that party achieving the same percentage of the vote.
*Update 2017.08.15 18:44 CDT: I have edited this columnist’s text at his request.