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Open Non-Partisan Primary Proposal Makes Ballot as Amendment V

At this rate, Rick Weiland may end up getting more constructive laws passed than Mike Rounds….

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs certified Rick Weiland and Drey Samuelson’s open non-partisan primary petition today. Neighbors, you will thus have the opportunity to vote on a proposal to change how we elect every county, state, and federal official except for the President. Under the proposal, instead of holding separate primaries for Democratic and Republican candidates, we would hold one primary election in June, with all candidates from all parties, plus Independents, on the same ballot. Every voter from every party, including Independents, would get to vote on the same ballot, for whichever candidates they want. The top two primary vote-getters for each office (or, in races like State House, where voters have two seats to fill, the top four vote-getters) would advance to the general election.

Under the proposal, all candidates would have the same signature requirements to petition their way onto the primary ballot. Candidates would appear only by name on the ballot, without any indication of party affiliation.

Secretary Krebs calculates 29,924 valid signatures out of 44,095 submitted. That’s a 32.14% error rate, the third-worst error rate of the eight ballot measure petitions certified this year, behind 33.83% for ashamed-to-show-her-face Lisa Furlong’s fake 18% petition and 35.87% for Jason Glodt’s amendment. With 2,183 signatures to spare over the 27,741 required to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, this measure, now known as Amendment V (V for Voters! Victory! Vim and Vigorous Primaries!), has a 7.87% signature cushion. That’s the smallest cushion of the six initiatives certified so far, but still notably safer than the nail-nibblingly slim 2.2% cushion on my referendum petition on Senate Bill 69 last summer.

Amendment V joins Amendment T (the anti-gerrymandering independent redistricting plan) and Initiated Measure 22 (the Anti-Corruption Act) on the 2016 ballot. Weiland and Samuelson’s new ballot initiative group is promoting these three measures as a trifecta of reforms that can transform South Dakota politics. That possibility could provoke stiff opposition from the Republican powers that be:

  1. Amendment T weakens the majority party by taking away their power to rig legislative district boundaries.
  2. Initiated Measure 22 checks the majority party’s corruption with an independent ethics commission and tougher lobbying and revolving-door restrictions. IM 22 also counters the big money that keeps the majority in power by offering public campaign financing to willing candidates.
  3. Amendment V weakens both parties by taking their branding off the ballot, but in a state where lots of voters look no further than the R, Amendment V offers Dems and Indies a bit more of an advantage. Amendment V further weakens Republicans by allowing all voters, including Independents, to participate in primaries (Democrats currently allow Independents to participate; Republicans do not). All candidates will thus have to present more centrist agendas to win enough votes to survive the primary, and in South Dakota as in many other places, Democrats are far closer to the center than typical Republican candidates.

These three measures alone will make for interesting debates about how we should run elections and democracy. With six other ballot certified ballot measures (and two more for Team Krebs to process), 2016 will be a great opportunity for voters to show their ability to make laws for themselves.

We should find out whether we will have nine, ten, or eleven ballot measures by the end of next week. Secretary Krebs certified IM 22 one business day sooner than I had projected. The two initiative petitions remaining are the fair-share union dues measure and the medical marijuana proposal.


  1. Porter Lansing 2016-01-08 22:00

    Is it correct that no state has a non-partisan aka jungle primary?

  2. drey samuelson 2016-01-08 23:57

    Porter–No, California, Louisiana, and Washington all have open primaries (a preferred term to “jungle primaries,” btw!), and Nebraska has had an open primary election system for 80 years, and used it with great success (Nebraska’s Legislature is also a true nonpartisan body–it doesn’t have Democratic and Republican caucuses, and political party has no bearing on who chairs legislative committees, as there is no “majority” or “minority” parties).

  3. Porter Lansing 2016-01-09 03:25

    Excellent. Thank you, sir.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-10 08:27

    Jungle primary or simple run-off system? I like the idea that we put every candidate on an equal footing and pick the top two vote-getters to square off in November. This method guarantees that winners in single-seat races get a majority of the vote.

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