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Veto Senate Bill 69 (and 67): An Open Letter to Governor Daugaard

I’ve asked for just two vetoes from Governor Dennis Daugaard this session: first Senate Bill 177, the youth minimum wage; now Senate Bill 69, the main petition reform bill.

Hang on—two corrections:

  1. Make that three vetoes: when I ask for the Governor to stop SB 69, I also kinda have to ask him to block SB 67. See fourth paragraph below.
  2. SB 69 was a petition reform bill. On January 28 in Senate State Affairs, Senators Corey Brown and Ernie Otten perverted it into partisan trickery to make it harder for voters to put Independents on the ballot.

I have submitted the following message to Governor Daugaard to urge his veto. I invite you all to send the Governor a similar message.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dear Governor Daugaard:

Please veto Senate Bill 69 and its companion SB 67.

As written, Senate Bill 69 will likely be overturned by the courts. Specifically, Section 7 prohibits voters registered as members of recognized political parties from signing Independent petitions. No other state imposes such limits on voters’ right to nominate Independents to the general election ballot. Louisiana had such a law from 1918 to 1948, during which time no Independent candidate made the Louisiana ballot. Citing the Louisiana experience, the U.S. District Court of Arizona overturned a similar Arizona law in Campbell v. Hull (1999), finding, “there is no reason to believe that Arizona can prevent independents from seeking the support of registered Republicans and Democrats as long as those partisan voters have not already performed a nominating act.” The State of Arizona never appealed this decision.

SB 69 creates additional problems in Sections 12 and 24. Section 12 moves the deadline for organizing a new party up three to four more weeks, further restricting the ability of voters to respond to government actions by forming new parties. Section 24 allows new-party candidates to obtain petition signatures from non-party members, forcing new parties to accept candidates who may be nominated entirely by non-party members. Both provisions infringe on the freedom of association of members of new parties.

Case law indicates significant portions of SB 69, if enacted, will not withstand court scrutiny. We would do better to drop the entire bill and return next year to craft a bill that adheres more closely to the Board of Elections’ original intent of reforming the petition process. Arguably, Senate Bill 68, the third portion of this year’s petition reform package, does enough by itself to improve the integrity of the petition process by mandating that the Secretary of State check statewide nominating petitions with 5% random sampling.

SB 69 is integrally linked to SB 67, which sets the deadline for filing court challenges to petitions on the third Tuesday in March. Vetoing SB 69 would leave the deadline for filing petitions on the last Tuesday in March, making the court deadline of SB 67 inappropriate.

Vetoing SB 69 and SB 67 will protect voter rights and spare the state a court challenge it would lose while leaving intact the step taken in SB 68 to improve the integrity of nominating petitions. Please veto Senate Bill 69 and Senate Bill 67.

If you have any questions about the reasons to veto SB 69 and SB 67, I will be happy to speak with you further. Thank you for your attention to voter rights and petitions.


Cory Allen Heidelberger
Aberdeen, South Dakota

Rep. Spence Hawley attempted to alert the conference committee to the legal problems with Senate Bill 69 on Friday, but to no avail. Let us hope the Governor will now heed these concerns. Governor Daugaard, please spare the voters some grief and the state another legal bill: please veto Senate Bill 69 (and 67).


  1. Kurt Evans 2015-03-16 11:29

    Even the provision of SB 69 that prohibits anyone registered with a political party from _running_ an independent campaign is vulnerable to a court challenge. In principle, parties select their nominees in the primaries, but the general election stands (or ought to stand) above party politics in the eyes of the law. A citizen doesn’t forfeit the right to run an independent campaign by merely registering with a party.

    If the governor decides to veto SB 67 and SB 69—as he clearly should, for moral, legal and practical reasons—South Dakota’s arbitrary pre-primary filing deadline for independent candidates will remain extremely vulnerable to a court challenge. But I guess that’s a topic for another day.

    I’d expected you to do a great job on this letter, Cory, and you’ve exceeded those expectations. Clear, concise, and convincing.

  2. mike from iowa 2015-03-16 11:40

    Clear,concise and convincing,but,is it wingnut proof?

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-16 12:58

    Mike, wingnuts aren’t the enemy here. If there is an enemy, it’s mainstreamers trying to keep outsiders off the ballot.

  4. rwb 2015-03-16 13:49

    Kurt, you are spot on in your description. Clear, concise and convincing. And I’ll add one more: ignored. Too bad – When the governor and Cory are in the same room, Cory is the smartest guy in the room. But Daugaard just doesn’t care. He is working on his Republican legacy in this term and he needs red meat to throw out there.

  5. mike from iowa 2015-03-16 15:00

    I thought you were trying to convince Daugaard and as rwb points out,no easy sell. You already have him surrounded and outgunned by any measure you care to come up with-except he is the one needing to be convinced.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-16 16:44

    The Governor won’t agree on that smarts assessment, RWB. After all, I’m the meathead who cited Campbell v. Hunt instead of Campbell v. Hull in my original letter to the Governor’s office. :-P

    Thing is, SB 69 isn’t a big legacy builder. It’s an election statute that gets thrown out in court by one cranky Indy candidate. I’d think legacy could be better burnished by vetoing this bill so it doesn’t distract from the Governor’s other, more awesome plans.

  7. leslie 2015-03-16 21:12

    if you give the full citation, which all lawyers formally do, Campbell v. Hull, ____NW2d_____(SD 20__), lawyer daugaard can’t disregard your mispelling. if the cite is well known, like Citizen’s United, that is enough informally.

    You are no meathead cory. You do us a HUGE service. looking forward to meeting you at the next democratic event.

  8. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-03-16 21:22

    This is more Republican voter and candidate limiting. Are other states doing this? Is it an ALEC thing?

  9. Richard Winger 2015-03-17 09:51

    This year, Republican state legislators in Alabama and Oklahoma and Pennsylvania have introduced bills to ease ballot access for minor parties and independent candidates. In Oklahoma, the author of the bill cutting the number of signatures for new parties by 80% is Eric Proctor, Speaker of the House. His HB 1813 has already passed the Oklahoma House unanimously. South Dakota’s legislature is moving in the opposite direction.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-17 10:17

    Thanks, Richard! Ease ballot access—why not? What have we to fear from more parties and more candidates?

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-03-17 10:20

    Richard offers an interesting response to Deb’s question. Alabama and Oklahoma have solid Republican legislatures. Pennsylvania’s legislature is divided. If this were an ALEC trick, we’d see it happening elsewhere, not first and uniquely in South Dakota. I get the impression the Legislative amendments to the Board of Elections’ original intent may be bad ideas homegrown in Pierre.

  12. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-03-17 19:20

    Thanks for your response Richard. I’m glad to know it’s not an ALEC/Republican thing.

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