The South Dakota Board of Elections is poised to give more love to third parties and less love to Russian hackers and electronic voting machines.
At its September 27 meeting in Pierre, the Board of Elections will consider draft legislation to make it a little easier for third parties to maintain official recognition. Draft Bill #1 makes this change to the definition of political party in SDCL 12-1-3:
(10) “Political party,” commencing with the 2014 general election and every general election thereafter, a party whose candidate for any statewide office
at the last preceding general electionreceived at least two and one-half percent of the total votes cast for that statewide office shall remain a political party for the next two general election cycles; [South Dakota Board of Elections, 2018 Proposed Draft Legislation, Draft #1, posted September 2017]
Recall that the 2017 Legislature already cut third parties some slack with House Bill 1034, which expanded the criteria for keeping party status from fielding a gubernatorial candidate who wins at least 2.5% of the vote to fielding any statewide candidate who wins at least that many votes. By the intent of HB 1034, Libertarians would have kept their party status through the 2018 election thanks to the strong showings of their 2014 candidates for attorney general, state auditor, state treasurer, and commissioner of school and public lands, and Constitutionists would have kept their status thanks to 2.5%+ showings by their candidates for secretary of state and public utilities commissioner.
However, by dropping the reference to Governor, HB 1034 made the party recognition criterion reset with every general election. The Libertarians and Constitutionists did place statewide candidates for Presidential Electors on the 2016 ballot, but only the Libs’ Johnson Electors won more than 2.5% (Johnson polled 5.63%; Cons’ man Castle drew only 1.10%). Under HB 1034, the Constitutionists thus lost party status after the 2016 election and would have to petition their way back to status with 6,936 signatures again in 2018.
Draft Bill #1 cuts the Constitutionists a break and lets their strong (3.97% for Lori Stacey for SOS; 4.95% for Wayne Schmidt for PUC) 2014 vote tallies keep their brand on the ballot through the 2018 election.
Meanwhile, Drafts #2–5 respond to current events by striking direct recording electronic devices from the voting machines allowed in South Dakota elections. Direct recording electronic devices are the push-button or touchscreen voting systems that don’t record votes on paper and have been reported to occasionally register a vote for a candidate other than the one the voter touches. Draft Bill #2 also goes Battlestar Galactica and bans connecting any voting equipment, ballot-marking devices, or tabulating machines to the Internet. Draft Bill #3 bans transmitting uncounted votes or ballots through the Internet.
These restrictions on electronic and networked voting systems appear to respond to recommendations security experts made to Congress this summer that we should phase out electronic voting machines and make use voter-verified paper ballots in all elections. Norway and the Netherlands went that direction this year, voting on paper and counting all ballots by hand in response to fears raised by Russia’s widespread efforts to hack Western elections.
If the Board of Elections approves these proposals on September 27, the Secretary of State will forward them to the Legislature for consideration and passage as emergency bills (i.e., to be enacted immediately, before the 2018 primary) in the 2018 Session.