The GOP spin blog wallows in Newspeak again. Having already established that he does not understand Senate Bill 69, Pat Powers cites some nameless reader’s absurd assertion that reducing voters’ rights actually “puts them on equal footing with the R’s and D’s – collecting signatures from Independents and requiring the same percentage.”
Under no political circumstance are South Dakota Independents like Kurt Evans, Larry Pressler, or the other 105,000 registered Independents who make up 20% of South Dakota’s electorate “on an equal footing” with candidates of the two major parties.
Organizationally, Independents have no reliable, ongoing network to tap for assistance in circulating petitions, raising money, and getting out the vote. They have no institutional knowledge or brand recognition to help them win elections. They have no representatives in state government to protect their electoral interests. Independents have never been in a position to make rules to benefit their selfish political interests; they have always been subject to rules made for them by Republican and Democratic partisans whose narrow interests include boxing out non-party and new-party challengers.
Philosophically, we do not place Independents on an equal footing with partisan candidates by restricting the folks from whom they may seek nominating signatures to fellow Independents. “You can only get signatures from members of your own party” only makes sense for candidates who have a party, who are seeking nomination to a party primary ballot. That’s party business. Independents seek nomination to the general election ballot. That’s every voter’s business; every voter ought to be able to sign an Independent’s petition.
Sample Independents across South Dakota, and you’ll find a wide range of beliefs that would defy boiling down to a unifying platform. You may find only one common idea: that party affiliation should not matter. Telling Independents they must ask voters’ party affiliation and reject the nomination of party members contradicts what may be the only philosophical underpinning of Independence. That restriction is like telling South Dakota Republicans they have to vote for a state income tax, or telling South Dakota Democrats they have to vote to repeal initiative and referendum.
Senate Bill 69 is not about equality. It’s about punishing Independents for daring to operate outside the party system and making it even harder for them to run for office and offer their ideas and service to all South Dakotans.