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Deputy SOS Warne Warns Petition Circulators: Follow the Rules!

In response to a flurry of questions and complaints arising this week over questionable activities by individuals and organizations promoting ballot initiatives, the Secretary of State’s office yesterday e-mailed the following lengthy reminder of the laws governing the circulation of petitions. I apologize for sounding like the press release blog, but I quote in full, since this information from state government really is useful. I have added hyperlinks but maintained emphasis from the original:

We have received a number of emails and calls this week regarding petition circulators and we thought it would be best to email all of you with our response to these questions.

State law requires the petition circulator to witness each voter signing the petition.

SDCL  2-1-10.   Verification of persons circulating initiative or referendum petitions–Form and content–Violation as misdemeanor. Each person, who circulates and secures signatures to a petition to initiate a constitutional amendment or other measure or to refer legislation to the electors, shall sign a verification before filing the petition with the officer in whose office it is by law required to be filed. The verification shall prescribe that the circulator made reasonable inquiry and, to the best of the circulator’s knowledge, each person signing the petition is a qualified voter of the state in the county indicated on the signature line and that no state statute regarding the circulation of petitions was knowingly violated. The State Board of Elections shall prescribe the form for the verification. The verification shall be complete and the affixing of the circulator’s signature shall be witnessed and notarized by a notary public commissioned in South Dakota or other officer authorized to administer oaths pursuant to § 18-3-1. Any person who falsely swears to the verification provided for in this section is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

State law requires a petition circulator to be at least the age of 18 and a resident of South Dakota.

SDCL 12-1-3 (9) Definition of terms used in title. Terms used in this title mean:

(9)   “Petition circulator,” a resident of the State of South Dakota who is at least eighteen years of age who circulates nominating petitions or other petitions for the purpose of placing candidates or issues on any election ballot;

State law requires petition circulators for initiated constitutional amendments and initiated measures to offer to each person who has signed the petition a form which will include the Attorney General’s Title and Explanation on it.  If the signer does not want to take a copy of this form that is ok.

SDCL  2-1-1.1.   Petition to be circulated for initiated constitutional amendment–Time for signatures and filing. The petition as it is to be circulated for an initiated constitutional amendment shall be filed with the secretary of state prior to circulation for signatures and shall:

  1. Contain the full text of the initiated constitutional amendment;
  2. Contain the date of the general election at which the initiated constitutional amendment is to be submitted;
  3. Contain the title and explanation as prepared by the attorney general;
  4. Be accompanied by a notarized form that includes the names and addresses of the petition sponsors; and
  5. Be accompanied by a statement of organization as provided in § 12-27-6.

 The petition circulator shall provide to each person who signs the petition a form containing the title and explanation of the initiated constitutional amendment as prepared by the attorney general. The form shall be approved by the secretary of state prior to circulation.

For any initiated constitutional amendment petition, no signatures may be obtained more than twenty-four months preceding the general election that was designated at the time of filing of the full text. The initiated constitutional amendment petition shall be filed with the secretary of state at least one year before the next general election. A sworn affidavit, signed by at least two-thirds of the petition sponsors, stating that the documents filed constitute the entire petition and to the best of the knowledge of the sponsors contains a sufficient number of signatures shall also be filed with the secretary of state. The form of the petition and affidavit shall be prescribed by the State Board of Elections.

SDCL 2-1-1.2.   Petition to be circulated for initiated measure–Time for signatures and filing. The petition as it is to be circulated for an initiated measure shall be filed with the secretary of state prior to circulation for signatures and shall:

  1. Contain the full text of the initiated measure;
  2. Contain the date of the general election at which the initiated measure is to be submitted;
  3. Contain the title and explanation as prepared by the attorney general;
  4. Be accompanied by a notarized form that includes the names and addresses of the petition sponsors; and
  5. Be accompanied by a statement of organization as provided in § 12-27-6.

The petition circulator shall provide to each person who signs the petition a form containing the title and explanation of the initiated measure as prepared by the attorney general. The form shall be approved by the secretary of state prior to circulation.

For any initiated measure petition, no signatures may be obtained more than twenty-four months preceding the general election that was designated at the time of filing of the full text. The initiated measure petition shall be filed with the secretary of state at least one year before the next general election. A sworn affidavit, signed by at least two-thirds of the petition sponsors, stating that the documents filed constitute the entire petition and to the best of the knowledge of the sponsors contains a sufficient number of signatures shall also be filed with the secretary of state. The form of the petition and affidavit shall be prescribed by the State Board of Elections.

Petition circulator employment and compensation:

SDCL  12-13-28.   Employment and compensation of petition circulators. No person may employ, reward, or compensate any person to circulate a petition for an initiated measure, referred law, or proposed amendment to the South Dakota Constitution based on the number of registered voters who signed the petition. Nothing in this section prohibits any person from employing a petition circulator based on one of the following practices:

  1. Paying an hourly wage or salary;
  2. Establishing either express or implied minimum signature requirements for the petition circulator;
  3. Terminating the petition circulator’s employment, if the petition circulator fails to meet certain productivity requirements; and
  4. Paying discretionary bonuses based on reliability, longevity, and productivity.

Any violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Challenges on the petition circulator not witnessing the signers sign the petition, not being a SD resident and not providing the form which includes the AG’s title and explanation to each signer who signs the petition, can be done through the court system.  

I have attached the How to Circulate a Statewide Ballot Petition pamphlet which includes this information and a good resource to provide to each of your petition circulators.

Just a reminder that all statewide ballot measures are due in our office no later than 5:00 PM CT on November 9, 2015.  All petitions received after this date and time will not be validated/filed.  A sworn affidavit, signed by at least two-thirds of the petition sponsors, stating that the documents filed constitute the entire petition and to the best of the knowledge of the sponsors contains a sufficient number of signatures shall also be filed with the secretary of state when you submit the petitions.  I have attached a copy of this affidavit for your reference [Kea Warne, Deputy Secretary of State, e-mail to petition organizers, 2015.09.17].

Deputy Secretary Warne serves the public well with this stern reminder of the rules for petitions. If we want to preserve and promote our democratic right to make laws through popular vote, we must follow the the law. Failing to follow these rules casts mistrust over the entire process and deters citizens from signing our petitions.

However, one portion of this official statement alarms me. Even in the midst of increasing evidence that some petitioners are using illegal tactics to gain access to the ballot for their causes, the Secretary of State’s office indicates that accountability for petition violations will have to come from citizens filing challenges in court, not from our elected officials and law enforcement acting on the evidence of wrongdoing presented to them right now. If the illegal tactics mentioned in Deputy Secretary Warne’s e-mail are misdemeanors, and citizens report credible evidence of those misdemeanors to law enforcement, can law enforcement agents not act on that evidence to stop those misdemeanors?

Stay tuned: with ten initiative petitions circulating and an eleventh on its way (Local 49 filed its ballot committee statement of organization Wednesday), competition for signatures is keen, and petitioners will be watching each other closely for illegal tactics that could jeopardize not just individual ballot measures but the public trust in the entire initiative process.

8 Comments

  1. Steve Hickey 2015-09-18 07:07

    Yep I’m bummed to learn we have to not only collect our petitions but monitor, police and litigate the violators too. We did it with Bosworth, Cory. I guess we get to do it here too.

    We alerted the SOS and AG and sent various examples of violations. For me it’s like calling the police and they come and check out the situation and arrest offenders and make charges. Not so here. We call and apparently we have to make a citizens arrest and draw up legal charges and present them to the court.

    When we would vote to pass a law with criminal penalties I assumed enforcement did not rest on the citizen.

  2. Jeff Barth 2015-09-18 07:53

    Steve is right. It is sad that we need to enforce this ourselves but we citizens need to step up to the task.

    Perhaps we should:
    Photograph circulators
    Record or photograph the license plates of their cars
    Ask to see the circulator’s identification

    Meanwhile petitions should be posted online and made available to the public to review as this blog pioneered a year ago. The problems in the petition process are jeopardizing the whole referral and nominating process.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-18 08:10

    Yes and yes, Jeff. If the burden of law enforcement is going to fall on us citizens, then the petitions should be placed online for public review for free.

  4. jerry 2015-09-18 08:25

    You have nailed it Mr. Barth “The problems in the petition process are jeopardizing the whole referral and nominating process.” But that is only part of the jeopardizing that we are seeing. Voting machines that are so antiquated they do not have spare parts. Voting machines whose shelf live has long expired are being used to tally votes for a democratic society. Americans go to other countries to witness voting and all due process, but we fail miserably at our own process. We are the government we want though, corrupt as it may be. Krebs needs to do her job, but why is she not up to the performance in this fiasco? Who is pulling her strings? The cabal of course, they must find a corrupt profit source to keep it alive after the EB-5 has gathered dust.
    Republicans scream about voting irregularities by minorities, turns out, they have met the violators and it is them. Boz convicted, Hickey, wait and see, imported crooks and liars, no problem, the game needs fixing in a lawful way.

  5. mike from iowa 2015-09-18 08:43

    I’d suggest asking one party rulers to raise taxes to pay for law enforcement of petitions if I really believed wingnuts cared about voters. But,let’s be sensible. Not even gonna happen in a liberal’s dream.

  6. Jim 2015-09-18 10:14

    My reading of those statutes is that the resident circulator has to confirm a signers residency/voter registration and hand them the petition. “Witness/circulators” can’t stand idly by while the out of state barker tries to hustle signatures. Glodt is more connected than about anyone in this state. Not sure why he needs out of state “managers” to schlep petitions.

  7. rollin potter 2015-09-18 18:58

    hey folks, u.s. senate candidate walker gets a suspended sentence for perjury and false instrument filing and candidate Bosworth gets WHAT for the same offense!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-18 23:24

    Remarkable how admitting your crime and pleading guilty can change the outcome, isn’t it, Rollin? Of course, all good petitioners can avoid a Walkeresque outcome by following the very clear rules of which Kea Warne reminds us.

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