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Team Mickelson Leaves Petition Unattended at Brown County Fair

Speaker G. Mark Mickelson has collected at least 160 signatures on his ballot initiative petition to ban out-of-state contributions to South Dakota ballot question committees.

How would I get this usually closely held data? By paging through some of Speaker Mickelson’s petition sheets, which his “Protect Our Ballot SD” team left lying out at their Brown County Fair booth unattended last night:

Mickelson petition booth, Brown County Fair, Aberdeen, SD, 2017.08.16, 19:40 CDT.
Mickelson petition booth, Brown County Fair, Aberdeen, SD, 2017.08.16, 19:40 CDT.

After yesterday’s drizzle, I took my first walk through the Brown County Fair on a cool and humid evening. While everyone else focused on carnival rides, For King and Country playing the grandstand, and beer in Centennial Village, I went looking for ballot question petitioners. (Such are the fair pleasures of election nerds.) I found none, not even at Speaker Mickelson’s booth. Two clipboards lay on the “Protect Our Ballot SD” table, holding nine partially or full signed sheets between them, turned outward toward passersby with pens beside them inviting folks to sign, but there were no circulators there to explain the petition (there appeared only to be Mickelson’s definitely unconstitutional ban on out-of-state contributions to ballot question committees, not his possibly unconstitutional tobacco tax for vo-tech tuition subsidies), hand out the required disclosure form (which was on the table), keep the petitions secure, or legally witness any signatures.

Which failure is most grievous?

  1. Petitions don’t sell themselves. Having a petition sitting out by itself says nobody is interested enough in your issue to sit there and promote it.
  2. Leaving petition unsecured means honyockers like me can walk up, riffle through the pages, and read every name and address of everyone who has signed so far. Petitions are ultimately public documents, but not until the ballot question submits them to the Secretary of State.
  3. Signed petitions are precious documents. Speaker Mickelson is spending good money (at least on booth space—the only circulator disclosure forms I saw on the table indicated that whoever was supposed to be working the table was a volunteer) on this petition. Leaving Mickelson’s petition unattended (and when I made a final pass by the table around vendor closing time at nine p.m., the petition sheets were still lying out on the table, as if to be left in the open overnight) allows political enemies like those out-of-state Koch brothers or mere pranksters to steal those petitions. Voters’ signatures, just like their votes, are sacred and deserve protection.
  4. State law requires that circulators witness every signature. If I had scribbled my name on any of those attended sheets, I’d have rendered that sheet invalid. If any of the names I saw on those unattended sheets were added by citizens without a witness, then any circulator who signs the circulator’s oath on those sheets will commit perjury and end up in court and in the news like Annette Bosworth.

Protect Our Ballot? Ha! Mickelson needs to start with Protecting His Petition.

I understand that, as a legislator protecting his prerogative, Speaker Mickelson is more used to attacking the initiative process rather than conducting it properly. But lest he end up with an embarrassing invalid petition or circulators with Bosworth felony raps, perhaps Speaker Mickelson should work with some experienced petitioners who can provide dedicated, well-trained circulators who understand the petition process.

Update 08:04 CDT: I did notice last night that, after my first pass, someone did Speaker Mickelson a minor favor and turned his clipboards over so the signed petition sheets weren’t visible. An interested party checks this morning and finds those flipped clipboards and all other materials on Speaker Mickelson’s table undisturbed.


  1. Donald Pay 2017-08-17 09:09

    I would say, “Un-eff’n-believable,” but I can believe it. In any initiative or referendum petition that I sponsored or circulated, this would never happen. If we saw anything approaching that, we would throw out all those petitions and never let the people responsible for this illegal behavior near the petitions again.

    The elite political class in South Dakota is corrupt. They engage in illegal activity after illegal activity, and then wonder why people want to reform what goes on in Pierre. We can’t know for sure whether any of those signatures on those petitions are legal, nor can any circulator sign

  2. South DaCola 2017-08-17 09:18


  3. Moses 2017-08-17 10:02

    Turner county fair seen photo op signing autographs there.

  4. Porter Lansing 2017-08-17 10:36

    Honyocker Honyocker Honyocker … I love that word :0)

  5. mike from iowa 2017-08-17 11:25

    You forget who yer dealing with. Wingnuts in charge find it incredibly hard to think up a crime so heinous it is worth investigating, let alone prosecuting.

    Again, there appears to be no oversight provided by wingnuts over wingnuts. Getting to be a broken record, broken record, broken reco………

  6. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2017-08-17 11:39

    Well, at least some Republicans finally have a booth though. Last week, at the Sioux Empire Fair in Sioux Falls, the Republicans did not even have a booth manned or not. To think, that at the argest county fair in the state, the Republicans did not have a booth. It probably had something to do with the fear of having to defend President Trump’s positions (or Tweets) and the inactions of the Republican “Do Nothing” Congress.

    Oh, and did you check the Facebooks of the petition circulators? They are probably on vacation right now….. It is August…. ;-)

  7. Roger Elgersma 2017-08-17 11:51

    John is probably right. Last year I stopped by their booth, told them that either they would lose with trump losing of trump would take their party down if he won. Some young man said that they were trying to keep him on subject. I told him that when he is on subject he is being republican but when you say he is off subject he is absolutely being Donald Trump and that is what your party’s people voted for. Their party was out of touch with their own people. They do have a dilemma.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-17 12:18

    Donald makes a good point: every sheet left out in the open unattended on that table is now in question. In good conscience, Mickelson can’t submit those sheets.

    JKC, I did hear that Mickelson had some people working the Sioux Empire Fair. They may have been hard to notice with their bare-bones table, but I hear they gathered some signatures. Are you saying the GOP itself didn’t have a booth? I share your surprise! Here in Aberdeen, the Brown County GOP has a big table chock full of candidate stickers, along with the ever-popular Trump cut-out. Maybe Mick should have borrowed that cutout and placed it to supervise his petition.

  9. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2017-08-17 12:22

    Cory, yes, the Minnehaha County GOP did not have a booth at the Sioux Empire Fair this year….

  10. Donald Pay 2017-08-17 13:10

    Here’s why it pisses me off. I like the concept behind that initiative. I think it will be struck down as unconstitutional because we’ve got a corporate-controlled Supreme Court that equates money with speech. If Mickelson wants that to change he better vote for Democrats. Still, I think this initiative it is more in line with what the framers of the I& R Constitutional Amendment had in mind: that I & R was meant for SD citizens, not billionaires from out-of-state.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-17 13:57

    JKC—wow! Did the local Dems have a booth? Do I sense an opportunity to get a leg up in some SF districts?

    Donald—I would love to have Mickelson throwing his weight behind a court challenge. I’d love to hear a Republican leading the conversation against the intrusion of Koch brothers and other big corporate money in SD affairs. And I would love to hear Mickelson explain why out-of-state money doesn’t do the same harm to candidates that he sees it do to ballot measures.

  12. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2017-08-17 14:47

    Cory, yes, the good Minnehaha Dems did. Hopefully, this scared mentality by our Republican friends will work to the advantage of Dems in 2018 too. But in defense of the Minnehaha GOP, maybe they were to busy last week helping Senator Thune set up town hall meetings in the very populated counties of Harding and Perkins, and thus didn’t have time to set up a booth at their local fair in the most populated county in the state? ;-) #2SCARED2DEFEND

  13. DeejayBeejr 2017-08-17 18:12

    I probably would have signed them all “Sucky McSuckster” several times (except I wouldn’t have used an “S”).

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-18 07:54

    JKC, I hate to jump to optimistic conclusions, but could it be that the LEAD/Indivisible resistance has scared the Sioux Falls GOP from holding normal public activities and thus is creating an opening for Democrats to gain a visibility advantage and win back seats in the metro area?

  15. Darrell Solberg 2017-08-18 11:58

    Does Pat Powers know about this and agree with the process? Or does he choose to ignore such actions by his party?

  16. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2017-08-18 15:07

    Cory, It is possible. A county fair in the most urban of environments in the state probably scares many conservative activists from wanting to deal with political discourse with local concerned citizens… especially in the age of Trump. Or, it could be a sign of the mere political laziness that results from over confidence from a very gerrymandered reality, but I am afraid the gerrymandering probably trumps the laziness, however, as far as 2018 is concerned….. Or, the Trump cardboard cut-out went “missing” and local Republicans feared retribution from the POTUS on twitter, if they had a booth that didn’t promote his persona… ;-)

  17. Mrs. Nelson 2017-08-18 16:31

    They had the opportunity to have reliable petition circulators at their booth, too. Too bad for them.

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