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Rounds Botches State Constitution in Anti-Amendment V Pitch

Senator Mike Rounds apparently can’t debate the merits of Amendment V, the open non-partisan primary proposal. Our junior Senator thus resorts to misrepresenting the proposal as taking away voters’ rights:

“South Dakota’s Constitution gives voters the right to know a candidate’s party on the ballot.  Amendment V would strip voters of that right and instead allow candidates to hide information from voters.  Voters deserve more,” said Senator Rounds [Vote No on V Committee, press release, reprinted by Dakota War College, 2016.09.22]. 

Mike Rounds
If I say it’s in the constitution, it’s in the constitution, right? Right?

Senator Rounds is confused. The South Dakota Constitution does not appear to establish any right to such knowledge of party affiliation.

Amendment V adds sections to Article 7, which deals with elections and the right of suffrage. In Article 7’s current three sections, I find the right to vote for all U.S. citizens age 18 and over who have not been disqualified by mental incompetence or felony conviction, a protection of voting rights for folks who are absent from the state, and a mandate of secrecy in voting. Article 7 says not one word about party affiliation or knowledge to which voters have a right.

Article 6 offers our state Bill of Rights. Article 6 reaffirms our right to vote by secret ballot, but it, too, is silent on voters’ right to know the party affiliation of candidates.

Now don’t get me wrong: I think we have a right to know the party affiliation of candidates who want our vote. If I ask a candidate what party she belongs to and she doesn’t answer, I’m going to write a cranky blog post or two. The party affiliation of any candidate and any voter is public record; I just have to go down to the courthouse and look at the voter file. I’m just saying that our “right” to know party affiliation does not appear to be a state constitutional right, any more than my “right” to eat pizza rolls for lunch.

Wherever this “right” to information comes from, Amendment V does not “strip” that “right” from anyone. Again, consider pizza rolls (yes, let’s… yummm). I love pizza rolls. But the government is under no obligation to serve me pizza rolls at the polls (but Shantel! Consider the possibilities for increasing voter turnout! One little amendment to SDCL 12-26-15, and we have 95%+ turnout every time!). The failure of the government to hand me pizza rolls with my ballot strips me of no right.

Likewise party affiliation: Whatever right I have to know my candidates’ party affiliation, policy positions, place of residence, work history, medical history, or tax return status, the government’s declining to print that information on my ballot does not strip me of a right that I can assert and satisfy with a quick Google search on my phone.

If Senator Rounds wants to oppose ballot measures that take away rights, he should come out against Referred Law 19, which erodes our constitutional right to petition by taking away the statutory right of Republicans and Democrats to sign Independent petitions. Senator Rounds should come out against Referred Law 20, which denies young workers equal wage protection in the workplace. Senator Rounds should come out against Amendment S, which practically erodes the ability of state’s attorneys to protect the existing statutory rights of victims of serious crimes by spreading their resources out on notifying victims of petty theft and vandalism. Senator Rounds should come out against Amendment U, which takes away the right of the Legislature and the people to regulate payday lending interest rates through statute and initiated law. But we haven’t heard Senator Rounds say boo about any of those genuine destructions of South Dakotans’ rights.

It’s nice of Senator Rounds to do a favor for his Republican Pierre neighbor Will Mortenson and throw his name onto the GOP monkey pile against Amendment V. It’s just too bad Senator Rounds couldn’t throw some accurate constitutional scholarship in with the deal.


  1. Douglas Wiken 2016-09-22 21:22

    Rounds is out to lunch. His brain is in neutral. His synapses are hopelessly tangled. He does not represent South Dakotans. He is a tool of retrograde no-nothing Republican lobby groups.

  2. Roger Cornelius 2016-09-22 21:44

    Mike Rounds needs to have a Constitutional scholar like President Obama on his staff so he doesn’t make such major blunders.

  3. Bob Newland 2016-09-22 22:21

    Political “parties” are nothing besides business and social clubs.

    Political candidates often let folks know what “clubs” they belong to. They are free to tell folks what political party whose platform contains the general planks to which they subscribe.

    However, for a political district (e.g., a state) to have to publish a candidate’s political club, without having to publish all the other business and social clubs to which (s)he belongs, makes little sense at best, and is misleading at worst.

  4. BOHICA 2016-09-22 22:45

    Does anyone really think that any candidate after V passes will not publicly disclose their party affiliation to garner the votes of those staunch unbending party members? Duh.
    With a third of all legislative races already decided without one vote cast how can it be any worse?

  5. Rorschach 2016-09-22 22:52

    Whichever GOP Party intern wrote that statement got it wrong, but we all know that facts are not the GOP Party’s strong suit. Rounds will give the writer of that statement bonus points for using misinformation to strengthen the point he wanted to make.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-23 07:14

    My campaign intern could write a better statement on constitutional rights than Senator Rounds.

    Bohica, I agree that candidates will generally tell us their party affiliations after Amendment V passes. But I wonder: over time, after people get used to county, Legislative, and statewide elections being conducted on a nonpartisan basis just like their school board and city council elections, might we find more voters not asking and more candidates not mentioning party affiliation? Could V work some post-partisan good and get people to talk more about issues than party stereotypes?

  7. John Wrede 2016-09-23 11:11

    Rounds is a Master of deception and the promotion of mind numbing foolishness. He’s better at it than Trump just because he doesn’t know any better.

  8. Eve Fisher 2016-09-23 13:08

    A friend of mine pointed out that we’re somehow supposed to accept the statements about the SD Constitution from someone who can’t manage to change the ID on his telephone from “Senator Tim Johnson”. Of course, that might be on purpose to get people like me to listen to his robocall…

  9. MJL 2016-09-23 15:24

    I have a couple of questions that I need cleared up.

    1. This amendment would not impact a presidential primary, correct?

    2. How does one get to run in the open primary? Is it securing a number of signatures from any eligible voter in the state? Will we see primaries with 10 people running on one ballot for governor, and how would that impact the election process?

    3. I am seeking non-biased information that looks at the impact on voter turn-out and the impact of types of candidates in non-partisan elections like Amendment V, but having a bit of a difficult time with it. Where can I get such information?

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-24 07:06


    (1) Correct. We have to elect delegates and send them to the national convention to participate in the nationwide process. We can’t run a primary that could place two Democrats on the general election ballot when the Democratic Party won’t nominate both.

    (2a) Ah! Qualifying for the primary ballot is an underdiscussed part of V. Check out this section V adds to the constitution:

    Each candidate running for an elective office shall file, with the appropriate elections officer, petitions containing the signatures of registered voters in an amount to be established by law. The signature requirements established shall be based on the total votes cast for that office in the previous general election and shall be the same for all candidates for that office, regardless of party affiliation or lack of party affiliation.

    Under V, candidates still collect signature son nominating petitions. But we get to collect signatures from any voter, and we all must meet the same signature threshold. The Legislature will still set that threshold.

    (2b) Ten people running for Governor on one primary ballot? It is possible. Amendment V, like current law, sets no limit on how many people can run in the primary. How that impacts the election process depends on how many of those candidates are viable and to which voters those viable candidates appeal. As I hypothesized last month, a big field of Republican heavy-hitters (Noem, Jackley, Mickelson, Krebs) could split the conservative vote and help a smaller slate of Dems (SHS, Huether) claim both spots on the general election ballot.

    (3) Turnout? Start with this report from California:

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