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South Dakota Ballot Measures: What Patterns?

South Dakotans passed four of the ten measures on their 2016 ballot. Can you find a pattern?

 Ballot Measure Yes No Yes% No% Total Votes
Amendment R: Regents/vo-tech authority split 178,187 173,924 50.61% 49.39% 352,111
Amendment S: Glodt’s crime victims bill of rights 215,262 146,073 59.57% 40.43% 361,335
Amendment T: Independent Redistricting Commission 149,926 198,955 42.97% 57.03% 348,881
Amendment U: Usury! Payday Lender Protection Clause 130,606 224,850 36.74% 63.26% 355,456
Amendment V: Open Nonpartisan Primary 157,844 196,767 44.51% 55.49% 354,611
Initiated Measure 21: 36% Payday Loan Rate Cap 270,278 87,347 75.58% 24.42% 357,625
Initiated Measure 22: Anti-Corruption Act 180,580 169,220 51.62% 48.38% 349,800
Initiated Measure 23: “Fair Share” Union Dues 71,240 279,453 20.31% 79.69% 350,693
Referred Law 19: Incumbent Protection Act 98,649 242,107 28.95% 71.05% 340,756
Referred Law 20: Youth Minimum Wage Cut 104,172 256,658 28.87% 71.13% 360,830

The only obvious pattern is that voters appeared to have been humming Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” in reverse as they went through the ballot. Yes-Yes No-No-No Yes-Yes No-No-No.

The ballot measures were the only portion of the ballot where I aligned with a majority of South Dakotans. My neighbors agreed with me on R, U, 19, 20, 21, and 22. More South Dakotans went against my advice on S, T, V, and 23.

I’d like to posit a pattern of care for economic justice in South Dakota voters’ choices. Even as voters overwhelmingly elected Republicans, they overwhelmingly rejected the Republican effort to cut the minimum wage for young workers and insult the legislative authority of voters to boot. In even greater numbers, they supported imposing an industry-crushing 36% rate cap on payday loans (go ahead: the lying payday lenders deserve some crushing). Voters slipped a bit when at least 43,000 of those who voted for IM 21 also voted for U, which, had it passed, would have negated their vote on 21. But South Dakota voters don’t trust unions to fight for their economic justice: they voted by the biggest margin, 79.7% to 20.3%, to kill the proposal to require workers to pay “fair share” union dues for the extra work their unionized colleagues do to protect their labor rights.

Once the post-general/year-end campaign finance reports are in, I may posit some pattern of money buying results. However, IM 21 seems to put the lie to that hypothesis right away. The payday lenders spent millions to lie and cheat their way to preserving their profits. The sponsors of the 36% rate mounted no extensive fundraising campaign, but even without a big budget, the rate-cappers seem to have taken advantage of all the free bad publicity the payday lenders brought on themselves with their thug petition tactics.

Amendment S had plenty of money behind it, but it passed less on its wealth (and not at all on its legal and practical merits) and more on the absence of organized, funded opposition from legal experts in the state. What little expertise leaked out into the public discourse was overwhelmed by the blunt instrument of emotional appeals that sold the costly and redundant S to almost 60% of the electorate. Maybe S rode some anti-elitist, anti-information, grab-your-id Trump coattails; we can only hope the gut-driven S will not do as much damage as our Presidential mistake.

It is tempting to say that Trump voters (and South Dakota gave Trump his seventh-highest state tally, so maybe we will be spared the stormtroopers for a while) won’t vote for complicated ballot measures, but amazingly, out of Rick Weiland’s trifecta of reforms, the far simpler measures—getting rid of gerrymandering with an independent redistricting commission and holding an open, nonpartisan primary—failed while the most complicated—the Anti-Corruption Act—passed, barely. In the reality-TV, barroom-blowhard, anti-politician howl of the Trump surge, “Welfare for Politicians!” sounded like the most devastatingly effective attack-slogan on the airwaves. Backed with Koch Brothers’ money, that attack on 22 was the perfect analogue to billionaire Trump’s path to victory at the polls. But at least 17% of Trump’s South Dakota voters (and probably more, because no conscientious Gary Johnson Libertarian would vote for 22’s 70 sections of increased regulations on political speech) made no connection between the Trump and Koch medicine shows and voted for a bill that their billionaire sirens were telling them not to.

I really, really hoped that the ballot measures represented popular disgust with the Legislative status quo. How can voters be satisfied with a Legislature that makes so many mistakes of omission and commission that it draws seven popular initiatives and two referenda? Voters certainly agreed with me that making it harder to run for office and cutting kids’ minimum wage were bad ideas. The No votes on 19 and 20 were the fourth- and third-highest winning percentages of the ten ballot measures. Yet those same voters returned the same erring Republican legislators to Pierre with reinforcements, who can insulate the 2017 Legislature from political repercussions that should arise when the biggest GOP majorities since 1954 turn their knives toward the popularly approved 36% rate cap and the Anti-Corruption Act.

To put the ongoing disconnect between voters’ actions on policy and on policymakers in highest relief, look at the results from Aberdeen. District 3’s Senator David Novstrup sponsored the youth minimum wage cut in 2015. David and his dad Rep. Al voted for that cut. Voters at the three voting centers in District 3 (not all D-3 voters, but the closest we can get without precinct voting) voted to kill 20 by 74.2%, three full percentage points higher than the statewide No vote. Yet those same voters gave Al 62.1% of the vote over me, the guy who gave them the chance to save kids wages.

The total votes cast belie any suggestion of ballot fatigue. The two measures drawing the most participation were S and 20, the second and last measures on the ballot. The measures voters found least interesting were 19 and T, the ninth and third measures listed. Or look at it this way: the first two measures listed were #6 and #1 for votes cast; the last two were #10 and #2.

Perhaps the total votes cast are not a product simply of complication but relative complication or arguments for and against. S explains itself in its description: “crime victims bill of rights.” Boom! Sold! The case against S requires lawyerly talk of due process, current statute, resources—zzzz…and you must support wifebeaters! Ditto 20: cut wages for kids? That’s not fair! Argument done. Defending the cut requires David Novstrup to come out and whimper absurdities about economic opportunity or dad Al to talk Newspeak. Give voters and issue with one straightforward pitch and one complicated pitch, and they’ll jump on and vote in bigger numbers.

Meanwhile, the lowest-participation measures were T and 19, which revolve around the wonky arcaneries of drawing election maps and requiring petition signatures of candidates. We bloggers love talking about such things, but not many other people do. Just say, “gerrymandering!” and both Pro and Con on T have to stop and explain to 90% of folks what we’re talking about before we get to our arguments. Redistricting and petitioning are important topics, but fewer voters wanted to mess with them.

*     *     *

South Dakota, we did some good last night. By stopping Referred Law 19, we kept Republicans from imposing onerous and unconstitutional burdens on candidates. We defended young people and the initiative process by killing Referred Law 20. We beat lying, scheming, bullying loan sharks by approving Initiated Measure 21 and rejecting Amendment U. We got ourselves a state ethics commission (which Governor Daugaard needs to appoint by January 31, 2017!) by passing Initiated Measure 22. And, while this final vote made no practical difference in anyone’s daily life right now, we rectified fifty years of unconstitutional non-Regental governance of our vo-tech schools by rewriting the state constitution with Amendment R.

Most importantly, we showed that We the People can tackle a long ballot and make informed, conscientious decisions about the laws under which we shall live. Let’s do it again in 2018!


  1. Jenny 2016-11-09

    I would like to Congratulate hard working South Dakotans for voting to cap pay loans and saying NO to a poverty wage cut. I sense a bit of trending MN-like populist blue collar spirit at work here.
    There is hope yet for South Dakota Cory, don’t sit down!

  2. DR 2016-11-09

    CAH, when do the passed ballot measures go into effect?

  3. Troy 2016-11-09

    Don’t expect this advice to be taken but diverting scarce resources to ballot issues and away from recruiting, supporting, and electing Democrat officeholders reduces your influence on our state and its policies.

    The composition of the current legislature is 85 Republicans and 20 Democrats. The composition of the next legislature is 89 Republicans and 16 Democrats.

    Hillary Clinton (+1%) and Paula Hawks (+4%) were the only statewide Democrats whose vote % exceeded the Democrat registration %.

    Contrast barely beating one’s “registration base” % with the following:

    John Thune (+25%) over the Republican Registration (who start the election with a 15% voter registration advantage).

    Kristi Noem (+18%)

    Donald Trump (+15%)

    Chris Nelson (+29%)

    Winning a couple of initiatives doesn’t equate not even having a 1/3 of a single body of the Legislature or a statewide officeholder. Except for the Noem-Herseth race, it has been now 8 years since a Democrat state-wide candidate has gotten over 40%. Democrats now have 6 State Senators (6 short of 1/3) and and 10 State Representatives (14 short of 1/3).

    Rightly Democrats in South Dakota should be depressed. But, if you want something different in the future, I wouldn’t keep doing what you are doing. It is though up to you. Just don’t expect anything to change.

  4. Porter Lansing 2016-11-09

    Rightly, South Dakota Democrats should NEVER be depressed; just as you should never take advice from Troy Jones. He supports Don Trump and his Orion Financial Corp. will see the result, soon enough. Troy says, “It’s up to you, though.” “Don’t expect anything to change.” That sounds like a challenge. Winning initiatives is a very big deal, whether Troy Jones admits it or not. Colorado passed eleven progressive initiatives, remained a blue state and SoDak can do it next cycle, too.

  5. Kurt Evans 2016-11-09

    Troy Jones writes:

    Don’t expect this advice to be taken but diverting scarce resources to ballot issues and away from recruiting, supporting, and electing Democrat officeholders reduces your influence on our state and its policies.

    There should be a picture of Troy Jones beside the word condescension in the dictionary:

    How about not gloating and kicking people while they’re down, Troy?

    The defeat of Senate Bill 69/Referred Law 19 directly enables Democrats (and Libertarians, and Constitutionists, and independents) to recruit, support and elect more candidates, and I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated.

  6. Darin Larson 2016-11-09

    Thanks for the laugh, Troy, who advises moving scarce resources from successful ballot initiatives to unsuccessful legislative races.

  7. Jenny 2016-11-09

    I hope you understand why it would make us suspicious when you say the SDDP party should back away from the ballot initiatives process. This is one area where democrats are successful and South Dakotans don’t seem to mind having initiatives on their ballot.
    The SDDP shouldn’t stop something that is proven to work for SD voters.

  8. Jenny 2016-11-09

    A little glum about the payday loan cap victory, Troy? I guess even in SD it’s not always business as usual.

  9. Troy 2016-11-09


    I understand the suspicion which is why I didn’t expect the advice being taken seriously. But, I do believe good governance requires strong and vibrant discussion of the issues from multiple perspectives and on more than one or two ballot issues every year. I’ve held this position and made similar statements for at least the last two cycles as the SDDP had diverted resources to ballot initiatives. What the SDDP does is wholly its prerogative and are wholly free to ignore anything I say. I just want to be on the record saying I don’t think it is good short-term for the SDDP and not good for the body politic long-term.

    Regarding the payday loan cap, my view it will actually cause more harm for the poor than the status quo and it forestalls better reform that was possible. That said, the people spoke and it is what it is. But, it isn’t a success that will be consoling to Democrats who don’t eat and drink politics like those on blogs. One of its leaders was Republican Hickey and it was endorsed by Governor Daugaard. All the average Democrat in the street sees is there are no state-wide Democrat officeholders and the Legislature is 85% Republican.

    Darin, if my comment/suggestion amuses you, I’m happy to give you a laugh. Too often we take ourselves too seriously. The SDDP will do as it will.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-09

    Jenny—sit down? I built myself a standing desk this year.

  11. Jenny 2016-11-09

    How on earth would it cause more harm to the poor, Troy? Any interest rate lower and it probably wouldn’t have even passed. Don’t give me the hundred of jobs will be lost spew, I don’t buy it. The richest country in the world should just have the decency to pay their workers a living wage. I suppose you were supported cutting the minimum wage for teens also?

    It was a win for poverty workers across the nation as all of the minimum wage initiatives were passed!

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-09

    Troy, I’m not convinced the party devoted a lot of energy to this year’s ballot measures. SDDP petitioning work was done by June 29, 2015. In the following 16 months, SDDP issued maybe a couple press releases and created a couple Facebook pages for the referred laws. Some of us candidates used the ballot questions as a platform to discuss real policy and to serve our voters with education. I may be wrong, but I didn’t see that discussion diverting any resources or costing me any votes.

  13. Donald Pay 2016-11-09

    I’m not sure why Troy thinks an initiated measure would ever “forestall better reform.” Did any of those ideas surface during the campaign? I wrote a number of initiatives, and I would have welcomed any better ideas to make any one of them better, or to use a completely different way to make things better. If Troy has some ideas, let’s hear them. The problem is unless those ideas are put on the table, we can’t judge whether there are better reforms out there.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-09

    But let me tickle Troy further: what if we folded Rick Weiland’s into the SDDP and waged a coordinated campaign? Open visible Main Street offices in Rapid City, Aberdeen, Brookings, and Vermillion. From those offices, stage combined petition and voter registration drives in 2017—identify one odious bill to refer (the choices should be numerous, given the souped-up GOP supermajority) and one initiative to place on the ballot. Get the referral done by June 30; work the fairs and “welcome to college” events in August and September (catch the new students with voter registration and line up campus Dem chapters for primary-season activism). Make offices available for local party meetings and candidate staging grounds in primary season. Recruit candidates and help candidates make hay of those ballot questions while campaigning (built-in talking points with immediate calls to action).

    Ballot measures don’t have to be distractions. They can be part of an intentional coordinated strategy. Hitch all the horses to the same cart?

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-09

    Kurt, strange: I didn’t hear Troy condescending. I’m willing to take his suggestion as honest critique worth analyzing. I could be wrong: ballot measures could be a boondoggle for candidates. I’ve been preaching ballot measure synergy for three election cycles, and it hasn’t materialized yet.

  16. Craig 2016-11-09

    Troy: “Regarding the payday loan cap, my view it will actually cause more harm for the poor than the status quo and it forestalls better reform that was possible.”

    The Military Lending Act has been around since 2006/2007 and has the same 36% cap. It seems to have worked well for our members of the military many of whom were targeted by predatory lenders previously, and it has been supported by both parties. Also I believe at least 17 other states already have a 36% rate cap on small dollar loans and I haven’t heard that it results in additional harm to the poor (at least my limited search didn’t find any negative impacts), although admittedly it appears to be a mixed bag. In some cases it helps the overall financial condition, in other cases it doesn’t appear to have much of an impact.

    You may be correct that better reform was possible, but we went with the status quo for many years. When things like this finally get to the breaking point to where people organize petition drives they will tend to result in dramatic shifts. The legislature and the payday lending industry had years to implement reforms, but they weren’t interested. So this should be a lesson to some that if you ignore the issue long enough someone else will find a solution.

    That said, even if this has minimal positive impact upon the poor, there will still be a net benefit to the state. This is because currently we send tens of millions of dollars out of state to the people and companies that own many of these payday lending companies. These are millions that are no longer circulating in our local economy. At least by putting a stop to it maybe some of that money will find its way back into local stores or into Credit Unions or community banks right here in South Dakota.

    Also, I’m not going to miss a trashy payday loan company in practically every strip mall in town. I find a large number of these happen to be directly adjacent to casinos… so could this have an unintended benefit to no longer funding gambling addicts? One can only hope.

  17. Troy 2016-11-09


    Maybe I’m too simple but I think a core purpose of a party is electing officeholders and do not believe ballot issues sufficiently motivating to provide coattails to candidates and thus outside the core purpose and a distraction for time, money, attention, discussion, etc.

  18. Nick Nemec 2016-11-09

    Troy, precious little of the SDDP’s money or staff time was spent on ballot measures.

  19. Porter Lansing 2016-11-09

    You ARE simple, Troy. Not of mind but of agenda. You know that a legislature of 100% Republicans can be brought to it’s bony knees by a citizens initiative. An initiative makes the legislature benign, impotent and unnecessary. When a group of lawmakers refuses to build and focuses only on hate towards women and minorities, than the people must take initiative. It’s right that this process scares the socks off you, Troy. We know that’s true because you and Pat Powers only give Dems advice that can hurt them in the long run.

  20. Troy 2016-11-09

    Nick, when I speak of the SDDP I’m seldom talking about the formal entity but it as an organism of people, money, infrastructure, etc. just as most of the time I speak of the Church I’m seldom talking about a building.

    Which do you think is the stronger argument for a candidate (using the pay day loan issues)?

    1) Send me to Pierre and I’ll work to cap pay day loans at 36%.

    2) Send me to Pierre because I support the pay day loan initiated measure.

  21. Troy 2016-11-09

    Porter, I’m ok if the SDDP keeps doing what they are doing and take no offense if my advice isn’t taken whether given to Republicans or Democrats.

  22. Porter Lansing 2016-11-09

    But, Mr. Jones… You do take offense to the people bypassing Pierre and initiating their own laws when no elected legislator would have the courage to do so.

  23. Darin Larson 2016-11-09

    Cory, I’m not necessarily in favor of folding ballot initiative organizations into SDDP or any other party. I think initiative ballot measures can be supported by parties, but subsuming them into a party would too easily result in partisanship being a primary concern. Heck, one of the main ways ballot initiatives were fought in this election cycle was to label them as partisan even when they were bipartisan.

    With that said, I found Troy’s suggestion of devoting more party resources to candidate races amusing because I feel just the opposite and have said so on this blog. Dems are in no position to effect real change in Pierre given their scant numbers. They have been the “conscience” of the legislature as Bernie Hunhoff so ably served as an example of and there is still a role for that. With Bernie retired for now, I am so happy that Dan Ahlers is returning to Pierre with his policy smarts and ability to get Republicans to examine all sides to an issue.

    However, Democrats have effected real, profound change, often working with Republicans on ballot initiatives that have gone straight to the people for a debate of the issues and an up or down democratic vote. I’m all for Democrats continuing to fight the good fight running for the legislature, but a primary and more effective way of changing SD for the better right now is the initiative process. I’m not sure that the initiatives have really taken away SDDP resources to any material extent, but they are a good investment. Think of the resources it would take to begin to get Democrats in positions of control in Pierre. A tiny fraction of resources in comparison would enable a ballot initiative on an important issue and probably spur donations and backers that would not otherwise exist without the ballot measure.

    I have seen the writing on the wall and it says to take it to the people. Our state motto even says “Under God, the people rule.” The initiative process is how the people can rule in SD. Power to the people!

  24. Porter Lansing 2016-11-09

    Excellent, Darin. The diminishment of “one party rule” runs through the people and initiatives. And the fact Republicans are so afraid of it, is just the fun politics is all about.

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-09

    Troy I had lots of vibrant policy discussion with lots of South Dakotans about the ballot measures. I had a particularly vibrant discussion with Rep. Jim Bolin, in a televised forum that would never have been available during the Legislative Session and would never have been as immediately relevant to viewers who get to watch that conversation online and then mark their own ballots.

    Those vibrant discussion engage citizens in direct democracy, in critical thinking and decision making that is never quite so clear and present when we vote for Representatives and Senators, in which we touch policy only in general terms, without certainty about the final policies those representatives would hammer out. That democratic opportunity is why I place initiative and referendum at the center of my personal Democratic platform.

  26. grudznick 2016-11-09

    Mr. H, I congratulate you on your efforts. It seemed you worked harder than most and were very accessible and nearly always out there working. Nobody can criticize you for not trying or for not having ideas. I respect you for that, sir.

    On the initiated laws, when goofy things like that #22 get passed only because most voters are not smart about it and because millions of dollars, almost every penny from out-of-state, pour in behind it, that is not grass roots South Dakota politics or ideas. That is insaner than most.

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-09

    Troy, I understand the “parties win elections” argument, and I am open to analyzing the usefulness on ballot measures in helping candidates win elections. As played so far, ballot measures appear to do nothing to help our candidates win.

    But as I say that, something clicks with what Darin is saying. He doesn’t think parties should monkey with ballot measures because that partisan association might hinder the measures’ chances of passing. While Darin cautiously embraces ballot measures as a way to effect change in the absence of effective candidates, he seems to suggest that if we get our candidate-feet back under us, we should focus again on those candidates and cede ballot measures to other groups. That suggests (and Darin, please, tell me if I’m putting words in your mouth) he’d rather that voters view ballot measures separately from parties and candidates.

    But maybe that separation is a problem. If apple pie is good, and South Dakotans like apple pie, I don’t adopt a marketing strategy in which I offer people pie catalogs and let them shop for themselves. I mingle my brand with apple pie so that every time South Dakotans take a bite of apple pie, they think of me. “Apple pie?” I holler. “I love apple pie. Nom nom nom! Taste this hot apple pie I just baked! It’s so much better than that cheap tart those Republicans try to serve you. You just stay right here and enjoy this Democratic pie.”

    If South Dakotans like ballot measures, and if they vote our way on those ballot measures (HB 1234, minimum wage, 19, 20…), we sure as heck should remind them, “Hey! We baked those ballot measures! We handed you the fork so you could eat ’em up!” Instead of separating ballot measures from partisanship, perhaps we can point out that our “partisanship” includes giving voters those opportunities to debate and vote directly on policy.

  28. Darin Larson 2016-11-09

    The gnashing of teeth has begun about IM22. I’m disappointed to hear Deb Peters in an interview act like we might have to cut education funding to pay for the $6 million a year for IM22. Are you kidding me? We have $157 million in reserves and we might have to cut education to pay for a $6 million expenditure? Please spare me the scare tactics.

    If you will recall, people like Van Gerpen and Haggar thought we didn’t need to enact the half penny sales tax increase to fund $68 million for teacher pay. They argued we could find it in the budget just lying around under rocks or seat cushions in the capitol. That was for $68 million, but now we can’t find $6 million for IM22. I smell a rat. Are these rascals setting us up to justify some legislative changes to IM22?

  29. grudznick 2016-11-09

    #22 is bad, Mr. Larson. It is bad, indeed. And now you want to bleed the savings account to pay for out-of-state millionaire follies? The legislatures should smite it with a giant swatter.

  30. Darin Larson 2016-11-09

    Cory, you are not putting words in my mouth: I would prefer that ballot initiatives be viewed separately from parties. If it is separate from the party, it stands on its own as a policy proposal. Democrats, Republicans and Independents can get behind or oppose the proposal without so much fear of partisan name calling. We want ballot initiatives considered on their own merits and not just subject to partisan labels. Think of it as a nonpartisan primary for bills instead of people.

    As far as credit goes for good policy that gets proposed or passed, I think that will take care of itself in time. People will figure out who is supportive of good laws passed as initiatives. Turning to your metaphor of good pie: What you don’t want is to have people not try your apple pie because some people say your pie is made with rotten apples by Democrats. What you want is for them to like the pie first and then take credit as Democrats after they get a taste of the pie. Then you can freely associate apple pie and good Democratic government in the minds of voters. (Now you’ve gone and made me hungry. ;-))

    Furthermore, credit really should not be our primary concern; Getting good legislation enacted that creates good public policy is our primary concern.

    Kudos on your ultimately unsuccessful, but important, efforts in the coliseum of SD politics by the way.

  31. Darin Larson 2016-11-09

    Grudz, surely you are not impugning the judgment of the voters for enacting IM22. If you are impugning voters, might I point out that the Novstrup effort to undermine voters went down 71%-28%?

    I think if I have to live with Donald Trump as President, you can live with IM22.

  32. grudznick 2016-11-09

    Mr. Larson, #22 was about 30 pages of gobblygook wrapped up in a false advertisment.

    Mr. Novstrup was a firm handshake with a list of accomplishments topped by one swell haircut.

    And I have to live with Trump and IM22, so I’m doubly more pained than you. I was a Johnson man. I pushed hard for Johnson.

  33. Porter Lansing 2016-11-09

    Grudznik … You are one phoney, good-time, rock & roller. You criticized Cory for over a year and wished him bad will and failure continually and now you want to be accepted by those congratulating and consoling him? Weak character flaws on you. It would serve you right if every frequenter on Dakota Free Press completely ignored you from now on. We all know you’re only here because you crave attention and Pat Powers treats you like a foolish school girl. It’s our approval you need and that’s a personal problem with your depleted dignity. Vote No on Everything, Princess. It’s all about you.

  34. grudznick 2016-11-09

    I love Mr. H. In a manly sort of way.

  35. Donald Pay 2016-11-09

    I agree in principle with Troy’s argument if he’s talking about legislators not messing around with initiatives and referendums. The SD Constitution specifically reserves the I&R to the people.

    Whether a political party should be involved in ballot questions, is really a good question. I think probably no, in most cases. They should be involved in party building and candidate activities, mostly, but parties do engage in issue development, too, as a normal practice. I don’t like using I&R to drive people to the polls to vote for or against one or the other parties’ candidates. Karl Rove loved this strategy, and employed it to attack gay rights as a means to get conservative Christians to vote against Democrats.

    There comes a point, however, where a political party slips in legislative strength far enough that it doesn’t have enough legislative members to have any real legislative power under the legislative rules. If a party can’t, for example, smoke out a bill from committee, it has lost most legislative relevance. Sure, individual legislators can propose bills or amendments and make motions. However, the party really ceases to exist as an active legislative minority. It’s at that point that I think a political party, as opposed to legislators can, on a limited basis, justify actively supporting ballot questions that are brought forward by a individual citizens as a means to pass good legislation that the majority refuse to take up or kill bad legislation that it can pass at will.

  36. Roger Cornelius 2016-11-09

    I take your comment about ignoring grudz to heart and will your advice.

    If I post anything at all in response to grudz you may slap hand with a ruler.

  37. Porter Lansing 2016-11-09

    I know, right Roger? Where I’m from, Mennonites call it shunning. Maybe I was a bit harsh. Going “full German” on someone isn’t veryhelpful to growing our party. Who am I to give direction on Mr. Heidelberger’s blog? Cory seems amused by it and that’s how it will be. ?

  38. Troy 2016-11-10


    I’m not going to press the issue because it isn’t received in the spirit intended. If the SDDP (its organic mass, not just its formal entity) thinks its best way to be effective is to push a few initiatives vs. putting all efforts into being at the table for a few hundred bills each session, my partisan side is all for it.

  39. Bernie 2016-11-10

    Good discussion and I don’t doubt Troy’s sincerity …. but — if Democrats hadn’t fought hard in Pierre and then went to the ballot box over just the last six years here is how South Dakota would be different:

    — tens of thousands of low wage workers would be making even less
    — public schools would have been crippled by the administration’s heavy-handed “reform” bill of 2011
    — international energy companies would still be subsidized for pipelines that cross South Dakota (and not in any other state I know of?)
    — we wouldn’t have Building South Dakota, which emphasizes job quality, education and grassroots community efforts at the forefront of economic development and eliminates subsidies for projects that would happen anyway (BSD grew out of the referral of corporate welfare)
    — payday loan crooks would not be wondering how they are going to continue their thievery
    — we wouldn’t be curious as to who will be serving on the first ethics commission
    — ballot initiatives aside, the legislature couldn’t have passed road & bridge infrastructure and education funding without near-unanimous support of Democratic legislators
    — and one last point … most of the 500 bills in Pierre don’t go up or down on party line votes — only the big issues fall that way — and as you can see above, Democrats have made a big difference on the big issues

    So I think Democratic activists should feel pretty good about the last six years even if they are hurting from a national trend of rural America going bright red. It’s not healthy for our nation to be so divided geographically, but in a very tough environment our Democratic party in South Dakota has accomplished quite a lot.

  40. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-10

    Bernie provides us a nice reminder that getting political credit for successful ballot measures pales in importance compared to the practical good our ballot measures have done for South Dakota, plus the good our small Democratic caucus has wrought on key issues in Pierre.

    That said (campaign hat comes back on), we have every right to take that credit, to remind voters of how we have fought for them and done good for them, and to make that part of our case for electing more Democrats. We need voters to look at what’s really happening, not what their preferred biased media tells them to think of “Republicans.”

  41. Curt 2016-11-10

    Here’s a thought … IM 22 passed and I think all would agree that it was (by far) the most complex of all the ballot issues. Voters probably saw it as ‘ethics reform’ or some sort of club to wield against the corruption (GEAR-UP, EB-5, we all have witnessed recently. However, the memory must not have been fresh enough for the voters to throw out the foxes who had been guarding our henhouse. The foxes are all re-elected – with reinforcements!
    Strange days, friends.

  42. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-12

    Did they get that anti-corruption message, Curt? How can they view a complicated law they probably haven’t read as a way to solve corruption but not view the more direct cause of corruption, uncheck one-party rule, and not vote for the more obvious solution, electing more Democrats to check the majority party?

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