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Mentele, Mickelson Claim Signature Counts Around 15K, Need 26K+ for Minimum Safety

James Nord checks in with South Dakota’s initiative petitioners and gets both Melissa Mentele and G. Mark Mickelson to cite 15,000 as their current signature counts. Mentele says her medical marijuana proposal as at “about 15,000,” while Mickelson says his tobacco tax for vo-techs and his out-of-state-money ban are both above 15K. Mentele and Mickelson need 13,871 signatures for each of those initiative petitions. Given that Mentele collected only 16,631 signatures for her 2015 medical marijuana petition and failed to make the ballot due to a 45.48% error rate, Mentele and Mickelson both either need to get more signatures or reduce the error rate.

The fewest signatures submitted on any successful ballot measure petition in 2015 was 16,715 for the referral of the Incumbent Protection Plan, which became Referred Law 19 on the 2016 ballot. The Secretary of State calculated my supporters collected 14,179 valid signatures, meaning we had a 15.70% error rate. The lowest error rate in 2015 came from petitioners for the 36% payday loan rate cap, who collected 20,800 signatures, had 17,222 counted as valid, and thus had an impressively low error rate of 13.61%.

If any petitioners can replicate the 36% rate cap group’s success, their minimum signature count for initiated laws would be 16,056. Circulators of constitutional amendments wanting to live on the edge should submit a minimum of 32,113. But error rates in 2015 ranged wildly, up to 51.77%. At the 2015 median error rate of 30.96%, Mentele and Mickelson need 20,092 signatures to be safe, while amendment circulators need 40,183.

Related Submission Trivia: As sponsors race to Pierre with boxes of petition sheets to beat the Monday, November 6, 5 p.m. Central deadline, they need to remember to fill out and get notarized an affidavit saying that “the attached petition sheets constitute the entire petition to be filed and that to the best of my knowledge they contain a sufficient number of signatures to be certified to the ballot.” Unfortunately, the implementing law to which the rule (ARSD 05:02:08:07.01) creating that affidavit refers (SDCL 2-1-6.2) was repealed in 2012.

Sponsors still have to fill out that affidavit: 2012 SB 70 moved the requirement to SDCL 2-1-1.1. The Secretary of State’s ballot question webpage says, “A separate affidavit will have to be submitted for each sponsor.” However, statute refers to “A notarized affidavit form, signed by at least two-thirds of the petition sponsors…,” indicating that not every named sponsor has to sign that affidavit and that if there are multiple sponsors of a measure, they can all sign a single affidavit.

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