De Knudson came to Aberdeen today to see some old friends and collect signatures for the Open Primaries South Dakota initiative petition. Amidst that business, the Sioux Falls politico found time to talk with Dakota Free Press about the petition drive and the merits of open primaries:
Knudson was unfailingly on message, working into nearly every response her confident belief that her team’s initiative will make the ballot and pass muster with the voters. When I asked (around 18:15) why the outcome in 2018 would differ from voters’ 55.5%-to-44.5% rejection of the 2016 open primary initiative, Knudson offered three important justifications for her increased confidence. First, this initiative leaves candidates’ party labels on the ballot; the removal of party labels in the 2016 measure raised concerns about transparency and opposition from some party organizers (Knudson would call them the “entrenched” partisan powers). Second, Knudson says that some influential political figures who quietly backed the 2016 measure are willing to step out in 2018 and actively campaign for this open primaries amendment. Finally, Knudson notes that her 2016 open primaries team has reassembled and added a broader range of bipartisan supporters. They have learned from their 2016 campaign, have built shared knowledge and connections around the state, and thus can carry out stronger petitioning and outreach efforts.
In response to my question about her experience as a petition circulator (around 27:30), Knudson says we don’t need any major improvements and certainly no further stringent regulations on the initiative and referendum process. If legislators are concerned that we have too many ballot measures (and some of those legislators and cronies will have their anti-democratic knives out at the final Initiative and Referendum Task Force meeting on Friday in Pierre), Knudson says the open primary amendment could solve that problem: let everyone vote in the primary, and South Dakotans will elect more moderate legislators who will better represent South Dakotans in Pierre, pass better laws, and thus decrease the compulsion South Dakotans feel to resort to ballot measures to undo the Legislature’s neglect of key issues.
Give Knudson a listen, and when you see her and her team around the state, sign her petition, and let’s debate this modified open primary amendment in 2018.