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SJR 2: Bolin Wants to Make SD Constitution Harder to Amend

Add to the Legislature’s attack on people power the freshly filed Senate Joint Resolution 2, a measure that would make it harder for us voters to amend the state constitution.

Right now, South Dakota voters retain the exclusive authority to amend the state constitution. Whether amendments are proposed by citizen petition or Legislative vote, all amendments appear on the statewide ballot, and all amendments must receive a simple majority vote to become part of the state constitution.

Senator Jim Bolin
Senator Jim Bolin

Republican Senator Jim Bolin, a opponent of direct democracy, proposes to raise the bar for passing an amendment from 50%+1 to 60% of the votes cast. Senator Bolin’s SJR 2 would also require the Legislature to muster a two-thirds vote to put amendments to a public vote. SJR 2 does not affect the initiative process citizens may use to put amendments on the ballot, but Bolin has signed on to SB 67 to immediately change the method of calculating the signatures necessary to put amendments on the ballot and effectively raise the signature count by 88%.

SJR 2 reduces the power of the people. On principle, as with so many other bills that Republicans are promoting this year to undermine past initiatives and raise more hurdles to initiating new measures, reducing the power of the people is wrong.

However, in SJR 2, we are talking about the state constitution. Existing law recognizes the idea that amending the constitution should be harder than changing law. South Dakota doesn’t allow the Legislature to change the state constitution, just as Congress and the President cannot change the U.S. Constitution. South Dakota requires twice as many petition signatures to put constitutional amendments to a vote as it takes to put laws to a vote.

We already make passing amendments harder than passing laws. The question we must resolve on SJR 2 is whether that difference in difficulty needs to be greater.

Vote Thresholds for Amending Other State Constitutions

Across the U.S., thirteen states (including us!) allow the Legislature to submit amendments to a popular vote by simple majority votes of both chambers. Eight states require 60%; seventeen states require 2/3. Eleven states require votes of various sizes in two consecutive legislative sessions.

Delaware requires one 2/3 vote from each chamber, but that’s it—no public vote necessary to amend the Delaware Constitution (to which I say no flippin’ way!).

Once amendments make the ballot, only ten states require anything greater than a simple majority vote of the electorate to amend their state constitutions. Utah, Tennessee, Nebraska, Illinois, and Hawaii condition that simple majority with a vote threshold based on total voter turnout. Colorado requires a simple majority to strike constitutional language but a 55% total to amend or add constitutional language. Minnesota requires 60% to approve amendments from constitutional conventions. Nevada requires a citizen-initiated amendment to win simple majorities at two consecutive elections. New Hampshire requires a 2/3 vote.

So for what it’s worth, compared to other states, South Dakota makes it easier than “normal” for Legislatures to put amendments on the ballot, but we share the simple-majority requirement for passage at the general election with forty states. SJR 2 would make South Dakota’s constitution one of the hardest to amend, comparable in difficulty only to New Hampshire, which flips the SJR 2 numbers and requires a 60% vote of each Legislative chamber and a 2/3 vote of the electorate.


  1. moses6 2017-01-27

    Like this guy doesnt want democracy to work only for him , and he is a legislator.Unbeleivable.

  2. jerry 2017-01-27

    Dueling banjos is in the background while I read what he is saying.

  3. Darin Larson 2017-01-27

    To the tune of Rawhide:

    Bolin, Bolin, Bolin
    Restrict those people votin’
    Keep them mushrooms growin’

    Initiative, referral or amend her?
    Your legislator knows better,
    I bid the people leave the laws alone

    All the things I’m missin’
    Good sense, smarts and list’nin’
    I learned to pay them all no mind

    Vote ’em down– Pass the Bill
    Pass the Bill– Vote ’em down
    Vote ’em down– Pass the Bill

    Cut it out– Don’t pass the law
    Don’t pass the law– Cut it out
    Cut it out– Don’t pass the law

    Bolin, Bolin, Bolin,
    Bolin, Bolin, Bolin,

    Keep passin’, passin’, passin’
    Citizens tire of my gassin’
    We’ll restrict their rights for everlasting

    Don’t try to understand ’em
    Just shut down, ignore and brand ’em
    lesser people just don’t know what they need

  4. jerry 2017-01-27

    Damn Mr. Larson, that is spot on. This ought to be sung to all of those thugs and liars. How in the world do their districts put in such garbage to represent them?

  5. jerry 2017-01-27

    Here is Bolin on guitar along with fellow d—-e Goodwin, Russel and you fill in the blanks on the flea bag dog and the other fellers. Singing about the greenback dollar, how appropriate

  6. Roger Cornelius 2017-01-27

    Thanks Darin, you made my day.

    It is becoming more evident everyday, both in Washington, D.C. and in Pierre that the GOP is threatened and becoming more paranoid about Democracy.

  7. Darin Larson 2017-01-27

    I’m glad you guys liked it. It seemed to fit.

  8. grudznick 2017-01-28

    This Mr. Bolin has always seemed a common-sense sort of fellow to me, and I think his ideas and his haircut both display an attitude of that sort. I think this sounds like a wonderful idea. And why on earth would any of you be against letting people vote on this and voice the public’s real opinion. Perhaps they are tired of the dark-money out-of-state libbie groups experimenting with our constitution.

  9. Francis Schaffer 2017-01-29

    Out of state money like Alec and pledges signed to Grover Norquist? I need to tell Gov. Daugaard I did not nor do I now feel I was hoodwinked. I feel betrayed by Brock Greenfield though.

  10. Dale Ducheneaux 2017-02-21

    Bolin has gone off the deep end with this conservative idea’s. His fixation on transgender students is sickening. He also is looking to take away the power from the people. This man must be removed!

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