Finally, the Republican spin machine finds a hook it thinks it can use against the referral of Senate Bill 69. Naturally, the South Dakota Republican Party can’t say, “We think it’s a great idea to make it even harder for regular folks to run for office.” The Republicans can’t say, “We want voters to have fewer choices in November.” The Republicans can’t say, “We’re proud to be taking away most South Dakotans’ right to nominate an Independent candidate.”
So Republicans have to lie. They have to say that the folks trying to refer Senate Bill 69 to a public vote are trying to make it harder for soldiers to vote. Pat Powers’s hogwash argument is based on the idea that moving the petition submission deadline back a month or more is critical to allowing the Secretary of State to print official primary ballots in time for South Dakota soldiers abroad to receive, mark, and return their absentee ballots.
Senate Bill 69 by itself does not offer members of the military any more time to vote. In conjunction with Senate Bill 67, these petition reform measures were intended to give citizens more time to challenge petitions in court, not authorize the Secretary of State to make absentee ballots available sooner. Under SB 69 and SB 67, court challenges can still postpone the Secretary’s printing of ballots right up to the usual mid-April deadline. Powers is trying to paste an entirely different and unrelated intent onto SB 69.
Since Senate Bill 69 does nothing to make military voting easier, referring, blocking, and repealing Senate Bill 69 would do nothing to make military voting harder.
Furthermore, Senate Bill 69 has no impact on the timeframe for printing general election ballots. If the Secretary of State wants to make absentee voting available to military personnel more than the 45 days prior to the general election required by the federal law (which Powers the conservative is now so eager to cite as more important than local control over election procedures), she can do that equally well with or without SB 69. If SB 69 has any impact on soldiers’ voting rights, it’s only in the primary, and that impact must be weighed against the impact on all voters’ rights, military and civilian, who will have fewer candidates thus fewer opportunities to exercise their voting rights in the primary and in the general election.
I say referring SB 69 has no negative impact on military voting opportunities. But even if you think referendum and repeal of SB 69 would reduce military voting opportunities in the primary, even if you are deeply concerned about democracy (and Pat Powers’s disdain for ballot measures in general casts doubt on his commitment to the issue he’s crying about to contend for SB 69), SB 69 is is a rotten way to go about it. If all SB 69 wanted was to give Secretary Krebs more time to print primary ballots, it would have moved the petition deadline up and stopped.
But the Republicans took SB 69 further.
The Republicans raised the signature requirements for most candidates. How does that help soldiers vote in the primary?
The Republicans took away most of the opportunities for party committees to replace candidates who withdraw after the primary. How does that help soldiers vote in the primary?
The Republicans forbade members of parties from signing Independent petitions. How does that help soldiers vote in the primary? (Reminder: Independents don’t even have a primary.)
None of the complicated and enthusiastic Republican amendment of SB 69 showed any intent to deal with the problem Powers now claims as reason to defend SB 69 from the people’s will. The bulk of the Republican effort aimed at turning Senate Bill 69 into an incumbent protection plan that chips away at voters’ opportunities to choose their leaders.
If the South Dakota Legislature really saw expanding the time soldiers abroad have to vote in primaries, they would have adopted one simple solution: move the primary to July 15. Sure, that would pose some minor complications, but if military voting in primaries is so darned important, why should those complications deter us? And can those complications be any worse than the damage SB 69 does to everyone’s voting rights in the primary and the general election?
Saying that referring Senate Bill 69 takes away soldiers’ voting rights is the crass and false flag-waving of power-grabbing posers, not patriots, who have no good arguments. Senate Bill 69 isn’t about who can sing along with Toby Keith the loudest; it’s about real democracy. Senate Bill 69 takes ballot choices away from soldiers and civilians alike. You want to support the troops? Sign my petition, refer SB 69, and defend soldiers’ voting rights and the democracy for which they fight.
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p.s.: As ancillary proof that Powers isn’t thinking straight, Powers calls his old political patron Jason Gant’s job performance “revolutionary” when in fact Jason Gant will likely be recognized in history as a partisan, incompetent, and lazy blemish on the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office.