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Americans for Prosperity Wrong: Circulators Not Legally Required to Present ID

Dakota War College does its sponsors’ bidding again, this time forwarding the Koch Brothers’ effort to jam direct democracy by discouraging people from signing any ballot measure petitions.

While I agree in general with the “advice” Americans for Prosperity offers—ask questions and think about a ballot measure before you sign a petition to place it on the ballot—Pat Powers’s post of AFP’s warning contains one false statement:

ASK the person collecting signatures if they are from South Dakota. Only South Dakota residents can legally gather signatures for ballot questions. They must show you their driver’s license if requested [Americans for Prosperity, “Stop Think & Ask—Before Signing a Petition,” 2017.09.28, reposted on Dakota War College, 2017.09.29].

Yes, circulators must be South Dakota residents. Yes, I support asking circulators where they are from and for whom they are working. However, no state law requires petition circulators to present driver’s licenses or any other form of photo ID. The only identifying information circulators must give citizens is the new statement mandated by a 2016 law telling “the name, phone number, and email address of each petition sponsor; and a statement whether the petition circulator is a volunteer or paid petition circulator and, if a paid circulator, the amount the circulator is being paid” (see SDCL 2-1-1.1 for initiated amendment circulators, SDCL 2-1-1.2 for initiated law circulators, and SDCL 2-1-3.1 for referendum circulators).

Circulators are asking you to write your name and address on a public document. If they won’t reciprocate with the same information about themselves, then they have no moral right to ask for your information. But there’s no must here, at least none that you can take to the cops or the courts.


  1. Donald Pay 2017-09-30 10:23

    What is it with these people? It is more than a little ridiculous that AFP, an out-of-state organization, is purposely lying about people needing a South Dakota driver’s license to circulate a petition. This, of course, is an effort to prevent people from participating in their own democracy, which has long been a goal of Americans for Prosperity. I have to ask where is David Koch’s SD driver’s license, and where is his license to mis-practice law in SD?

    Actually, the circulator is not required to give you anything other than what the law requires. Asking anything that is outside the law and requiring that circulator to spend time with as you ask stupid question after stupid question could be considered harassment. If someone does this to a circulator, that circulator could have a right to take that person to court on civil rights violations. It is really not a good thing to interfere with the petitioning rights of people in a democracy.

    Of course, Pat Powers, who participated in many, many campaigns where signatures were gathered illegally, re-posts this. LOL.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-09-30 12:49

    Donald, I won’t go as far as to call questions harassment. By standing on a street corner asking people for personal information, circulators open themselves up to questions. Potential signers can keep their interactions pretty simple: ask one question—Where you from?—and if the circulator doesn’t answer, walk away (or maybe pause, get a copy of the the required AG/sponsor statement, take a picture, and send it to me!).

    The civil rights violations question is interesting, but Donald, if it turned out the circulator was violating state law, would the circulator’s civil rights claim vanish?

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