Press "Enter" to skip to content

Kids Keep the Dollar! Petition Stops Pay Cut, Puts Youth Minimum Wage to Vote!

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs (in red) and team scrutinize SB 177 referendum petitions. Photo from @SOSKrebs, tweeted 2015.06.30
Secretary of State Shantel Krebs’s team scrutinizes SB 177 referendum petitions. Photo from @SOSKrebs, tweeted 2015.06.30

Two for two! Secretary of State Shantel Krebs just told me that her team has certified the petition to refer Senate Bill 177, the youth minimum wage, to a public vote. Contrary to the nefarious wishes of Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen), South Dakota young people earning minimum wage will not face a pay cut tomorrow. The minimum wage for workers under 18 will remain at $8.50, just like for every other worker, just as South Dakotans voted for it in 2014.

Here are the petition numbers:

  • Our count of SB 177 signatures submitted: 20,077.
  • Secretary Krebs’s count of SB 69 signatures submitted: 21,277.
  • Secretary Krebs’s calculated number of valid signatures: 17,077.
  • Minimum signatures required to make the ballot: 13,871.
  • Calculated signature error/invalid rate: 19.7%.
  • Maximum allowable error/invalid rate: 34.8%.
  • Signatures to spare:  3,206.

South Dakotans will get a chance to vote on the lower youth minimum wage on their November 2016 ballot, where this bad economic idea will be labelled “Referred Law 20.” Remember, South Dakotans: if you think Senator Novstrup was wrong to try to short kids and undo the will of the voters, the correct vote on Referred Law 20 is “NO!” (The election is still 497 days away; we’ll remind you as the election gets closer!)

*   *   *

Those of you really interested in petition minutiae may have noticed that the SB 177 petition calculated error rate was 19.7%, while the SB 69 petition calculated error rate was only 15.7%. The petitions had many of the same circulators and signers; what happened?

Secretary Krebs found that our SB 177 submission included about 90 sheets that were photocopies of original, signed, notarized sheets. We did not include signatures from duplicates in our original count of 20,077 signatures. Those copies appear to be simple clerical error, a sheaf of papers going into the wrong box. The Secretary does not count signatures on photocopied sheets; however, those sheets do go into her calculation of signatures submitted. Those photocopied sheets thus explain why the Secretary’s calculated count has 1,200 more “signatures” than the number we said we were submitting yesterday.

Now, here’s the math on the error rate. Remember that the Secretary of State has to test a 5% sample of the signatures (not of the sheets, but of signatures). The Secretary’s team assigns a code number to each signature, then uses a spreadsheet to randomize those code numbers and select a 5% sample. 5% of the 20,077 signatures that we counted would have been 1,004 signatures.

However, the SOS methodology includes all sheets, even if they are demonstrably bogus and not meant to be part of the submission. In this case, that means the duplicates go into the sampling. Thus, 5% of the Secretary’s calculated 21,277 signatures is 1,064 signatures.

SOS Krebs reports that her random sample pulled about 60 signatures from the identified photocopy pages, all which signatures were of course invalidated. Given the numbers she reports, I calculate that Team Krebs found 210 invalid signatures out of that 1,064-signature sample. Had they drawn signatures only from the original sheets intended to be submitted, and if the circulators would have produced the same error rate as on SB 69, Team Krebs would have found about 158 invalid signatures.

Including those photocopies in our submission box is still our error. But including those 60 additional bogus signatures in the 5% random sample appears to account for most of the additional error in the SB 177 petition.

The point here: circulators, you did a heck of a job, producing not one but two successful referendum petitions with relatively low rates of invalid signatures. Well done, circulators!

p.s.: The error rate for the 2013 initiative petition that placed the minimum wage increase on the 2014 ballot was 18.63%.


  1. mike from iowa 2015-06-30

    Cory for Master of the Universe. Now wiggle your nose and make wingnuts go away.

  2. Ellee Spawn 2015-06-30

    It’s been an amazing week to be a South Dakotan. I’m excited about the things that we can do in our state as Democrats when we work together.

  3. Roger Cornelius 2015-06-30

    Well, how about that? Another big howdy-do to Cory and his team.

    This is a great step to stop the SDGOP War on Children.

  4. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-30

    Thank you Cory, Ellee, and all the other petition carriers. Though I no longer live in SD, my nieces, nephews and others do.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-30

    Working together, we win, Ellee! Thanks for your help! South Dakotans scored two important victories against a Legislature that is determined to shut them out of democracy. Now let’s make sure we seal the victories in November 2016!

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-30

    Roger, I will be very curious now to see whether Novstrup et al. will take the successful petition drive to stop SB 177 as a sign that they shouldn’t monkey with the minimum wage or whether they will feel provoked and attack the cost-of-living adjustment and other labor protections even harder. Keep your eyes on your Legislators!

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-30

    The SDGOP is having such a bad day seeing two of its bad laws go to a vote, that its blog, much like its legislators, can’t connect:

  8. Roger Cornelius 2015-06-30


    This next legislative session should be interesting as you suggest. What and how will they attack in the law being upheld? Will they blame the Supreme Court? Obama?

  9. Shirley Harrington-Moore 2015-06-30

    Three cheers for us, Cory! Did you get the button I left at SDDP for them to bring you? Onward now to August and the redistricting petitions!!

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-30

    …redistricting which the Supreme Court says is o.k. (although actually, while the ruling on Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission clears up doubt, I don’t think the Elections Clause would affect our ability to set state legislative districts by that method. Bring me a petition!).

    Sorry, Shirley, no button! But no sweat—it’ll find its way to me.

    Roger, let’s watch for that next attack route. I’d really rather not have to refer another law, but as we’ve shown, if the GOP asks for it with bad laws, we’ll give it to them!

  11. Troy 2015-06-30


    I think the lower error rate is related to all the discussion of petitions and signatures which another positive. For that I give you kudos. When every t is crossed and i dotted, whether it be voter registration, voters voting, candidate petitions, or initiatives, when the rules are followed win or lose democracy is working.

    By the way, I’m looking forward to voting “No” on your petitions. :)

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-30

    That’s the key to petitions, Troy: follow the rules. Thanks for appreciating our work. We look forward to making sure you cast the right “No” votes in November 2016. :-D

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-30

    Oh, and turn your radios on during lunch tomorrow: Karl Gehrke has invited me on to Dakota Midday to talk about Referred Law 19 and Referred Law 20! Right now I’m scheduled to be on the second segment, after 12:20. Tell your friends, and tune in!

  14. mike from iowa 2015-06-30

    Hell,they are already hard at work looking for ways to make John Public’s life harder than it needs to be. They can’t seem to help themselves,but they sure can help the 1%.

  15. Lynn 2015-06-30


    Congratulations! That’s great and is one of my favorite shows when I’m on the road. So are you going to become a regular on the show?

  16. Roger Cornelius 2015-06-30


    Will you miss KELO’s live coverage of convicted felon sentencing while you’re on the radio?

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-30

    Lynn, I’d love to be a regular on the radio. Roger, it would be a hoot to see the ratings for both broadcasts… but is KELO even sending a camera?

  18. Donald Pay 2015-06-30

    I’m going to make some suggestions here, because both of those petitions had fairly high error rates. When we ran initiatives, we had about a 5 percent error rate. People need to look at why those rates are so high.

    One reason is that photocopied petitions got mixed in with originals. That should never happen. We always used color coded petitions on special paper, and sent them out to people. We did that for a number of reasons. The main one was to prevent some “bad actor” from purposely sabotaging our efforts by submitting bogus names and bad petitions. That’s especially important with the sampling scheme for counting. Also, color coding is a way to assure that any photocopied petition would be automatically flagged. We never submitted any petition that was photocopied, even if it was an original.

    Letting people print off their own copies saves you about two days mailing time, but it creates all sorts of problems, as you found.

  19. grudznick 2015-06-30

    I, myself, have known people to sign goofy names just to annoy the petitioners. It did seem like a high error rate for Mr. H’s team but I liked how they conservatively counted the people. Ms. Krebs counted a lot more people who signed Mr. H’s papers than his people did. It’s probably a math thing.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-01

    5%, Donald? Holy cow! We need to bring you back to run our show.

    Kea Warne showed me a list of error rates from ballot measures during her time under SOS Nelson. The error rates ranged from 11.7% (2008 abortion) to 40.5% (2010 medical marijuana). The average was 25.7%.

    The average error rate in Washington State is 18%.

    I do agree, Don, that having photocopies in the stack is unacceptable. Next time, we’ll take one more look, eyeballs on every sheet, front and back.

    Individuals printing off their own copies didn’t create as much trouble as I feared. Out of all the home-printed petitions sent to me, I got one sheet that I had to throw out because it had been printed on two separate pieces of paper instead of front and back. Those self-printed sheets, as well as photocopies that people made of those blanks, were not a problem, since, unlike candidate petitions, we did not need original, notarized declarations on the front page of each sheet. Individuals could photocopy a blank, fill it with signatures, then take that sheet to be notarized, and it was legit. Our problem was purely clerical on our end: at some point while making copies of completed sheets for our records, one stack of those copies went into the wrong box.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-01

    Grudz, actually the Secretary’s math is based on the counting method. They count fast: they look at the line number of the last line filled on the sheet. If they see a name on line 20, they say that sheet has 20 signatures. They ignore in their official count the fact that line 5 may be scratched out and line 12 may be blank. We tried not to count scratch-outs and blanks.

    The SOS’s last-line methodology cuts both ways. It inflates the signature count with lines that we know don’t hold valid signatures. It also inflates the error rate, as those scratch-outs and blanks get codes and may be drawn for the random sample.

  22. Lynn 2015-07-01

    “The error rates ranged from 11.7% (2008 abortion) to 40.5% (2010 medical marijuana).”

    Wow! I wonder why the medical marijuana error rate was so high? What will their error rate be this time?

  23. Donald Pay 2015-07-01

    I’d have to know more about how the SOS samples these petitions. Is it completely randomized, or is it random within a petition? It seems to me the SOS sampling method may slightly tilted against the petitioners.

    What if a circulator just had someone sign line 20, and nothing else was filled in? Would the SOS count that as 20 signatures?

    When our petitions were counted, the SOS went page by page until they hit the number of valid signatures needed.

Comments are closed.