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Does Appearing as Presidential Elector Boost or Sandbag Legislative Candidates?

2016 Democratic electors LaPlante, Kelts, and Tornberg
2016 Democratic Electors LaPlante, Kelts, and Tornberg

The South Dakota Democratic Convention elected the following three delegates as Presidential electors for Hillary Clinton:

  1. J.R. LaPlante, Sioux Falls
  2. Susan Kelts, Rapid City
  3. Ann Tornberg, Beresford.

Also nominated for elector were Reynold Nesiba of Sioux Falls, Heather Halvorson of Sioux Falls, Cully Williams of Redfield, and Katrina Wilke of Rapid City. (Wilke and Nesiba withdrew their names from nomination.)

South Dakota’s Democratic electors have not had the pleasure of going to Pierre to cast their votes since 1964, when South Dakotans sent Dean Sumner, James Magness, Ralph Herseth, and John A. Engel to Pierre to cast our four electoral votes to keep Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House. (And contrary to information given at convention, the state does pay electors a per diem and mileage, per SDCL 12-24-5!) Getting South Dakota to go Democratic for President is hard, although if anyone can repeat Barry Goldwater’s failure, it’s Donald Trump.

History suggests we Democrats’ choice of electors Saturday won’t amount to a hill of beans. Still, I got to wondering if we Democrats could use our choice of electors to boost our chances down-ticket in three districts in November.

Consider that South Dakota prints electors’ names on the ballot (see SDCL 12-16-6). The names of the electors will appear in the first box that most voters look at. Might voters get the impression that those three people must be important, trusted people within their party? What would happen then if voters saw those electors’ names again, just a few inches later on their ballots?

That will happen in a few places with the Democratic electors. LaPlante is running for District 14 House. Tornberg is running for District 16 House. Kelts is running for District 32 House. In those districts, several thousand voters will see a Legislative candidate’s name twice, once next to the Democratic Presidential nominee, and once in that candidate’s own race.

Does seeing that name twice in the voting booth raise the profile of those candidates at the last moment and give them a tiny boost in the Legislative vote? Or as a smart delegate from Lincoln County suggested, will appearing next to Hillary Clinton at the top of the ballot cause those Legislative candidates to lose some votes themselves on their own ballot lines?


  1. Leo 2016-06-26 23:40

    The vagaries of power, real or perceived.

  2. leslie 2016-06-27 01:19

    It’ll help them imo. People voting while seeing names twice know who they are voting for, hillary or somebody from the confused GOP.

    imo. But bigger issue is foreign policy.hillary is a pro, trump is clueless but MI6 Alistair former spook has a job where he scrutinizes presidential politics for its effect on russia turkey saudis syria Isis and france. Yikes. Read Huffpo Syian Ceasefire Yesterday. Thots?

  3. Brett 2016-06-28 11:11

    You flatter me Cory. I’ve occasionally been called a smart ass, but not usually smart.

    After a little consultation at our table, we pretty much came around to the idea that it was at least unlikely to hurt candidates and voted accordingly, in spite of my original hesitancy.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-28 22:03

    Interesting! Thanks for the update, Brett! I mentioned your concern to some of the other tables I visited. Delegates seemed pleased to at least have a couple different takes on making their elector vote matter. Let’s see if it makes any discernible difference in November!

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