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Eight Initiative Petitions Submitted; 2015 Data Say Four Make the Ballot

Open Primaries a Squeaky #5?

Nine ballot initiative petitions had a chance of being submitted today; seven came in. Including the Voter Protection and Anti-Corruption Amendment, which was submitted two weeks ago, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs now has eight initiative petitions to sample and certify for the ballot.

The two petitions not submitted today and thus dead for this election cycle are the assisted suicide and marijuana decriminalization petitions. That sponsors Angie Albonico and Melissa Mentele did not submit either of these petitions is a bit surprising: these two petitions were the first to hit the streets back in the spring. Albonico and Mentele submitted their third petition, the medical marijuana petition, but with only 14,950 signatures. That’s a lot of signatures, but “only” is warranted, because that’s 1,681 signatures (10%) fewer than Mentele collected and submitted for an identical measure in 2015, and because that count allows no more than a 7.22% error rate over the 13,871-signature threshold.

In 2015, the lowest ballot measure petition error rate was 14.94%.

Based on past error rates, the medical marijuana petition appears to have little chance of making the ballot. What chances do the other measures have? Let’s crunch some numbers.

Ten ballot question petitions were submitted in 2015. Given that the signature counts we have right now are sponsor estimates, tonight I calculate 2015 error rates by dividing the Secretary of State’s calculated valid signature count by the sponsors’ signature counts.

For all ten 2015 petitions, the median error rate was 25.30%. Add up all calculated valid signatures from all ten petitions and divide by the sum of all sponsor-counted signatures, and we get an average error rate of 27.10%. Either way, if signers and circulators performed as reliably as they did in 2015, Secretary Krebs will throw out slightly more than one out of every four signatures.

Apply either the median or the average error rates from 2015, and three petitions fail: medical marijuana, independent redistricting, and the out-of-state ballot measure campaign cash ban.

Measure Sponsor’s Estimated Signatures Signatures needed Max error rate to make ballot Beats 2015 median error rate (25.30%)? Beats 2015 average error rate (27.10%)?
VPACA 50,000 27,741 44.52% yes yes
Mickelson money ban 18,020 13,871 23.02% no no
Mickelson tobacco tax 19,200 13,871 27.76% yes yes
Open primaries 37,230 27,741 25.49% yes no
Independent redistricting 34,394 27,741 19.34% no no
Vote by mail 19,850 13,871 30.12% yes yes
Drug price cap 22,481 13,871 38.30% yes yes
Medical marijuana 14,950 13,871 7.22% no no

Like medical marijuana, independent redistricting had a mirror petition in 2015. That measure made the ballot with over 40,000 submitted signatures and a 24.91% error rate. The 2017 redistricting petition gathered 14.9% fewer signatures and thus can afford only a 19.34% error rate.

That Speaker G. Mark Mickelson’s money ban drew 6.15% fewer signatures than his tobacco tax for vo-techs. The 19,200 signatures our Republican Speaker collected for a tax hike for education give him room for a 27.76% error rate. At the 2015 average rate, Mickelson’s tobacco tax petition has 126 signatures to spare.

Along with Mickelson’s tax, three other measures can make the ballot by either the median or average error rate. The Voter Protection and Anti-Corruption Amendment—a.k.a IM 22 2.0—gathered twice as many signatures as its 2015 version and can survive up to a 44.52% error rate. The other strong prospects for the ballot are’s vote-by-mail law (19,850 signatures, 30.12% maximum error rate) and prescription drug price cap (22,481 signatures, 38.30% maximum error rate).

The borderline measure tonight is Joe Kirby and De Knudson’s open primaries proposal. They performed almost as well as the petition drive for the similar 2015 open primary petition, collecting over 95% of the 2015 open primary signature count. However, their 37,230 signatures this year allow them a 25.49% error rate. That’s right between the 2015 median and average error rates. If open primaries made the median error rate, they have 68 valid signatures to spare. If they made the 2015 average error rate, they are 599 valid signatures short.

Under 2015 error rates, VPACA, tobacco tax, vote by mail, and drug price caps make the ballot. Open primaries might squeak on. Mickelson’s money muffler, redistricting, and medical marijuana stay home. If the measures I’m tagging here make their ballot, then, based on order of submission, they would receive the following ballot deisgnations:

  • VPACA: Amendment W (for “We the People!” Oh, market the crap out of that!);
  • Tobacco tax would be Initiated Measure 24 (you’re on your own marketing that one, G. Mark);
  • Open primaries would be Amendment X (“X Marks the Spot!” Another winning tagline!);
  • Vote by mail would be IM 25;
  • Drug price cap would be IM 26 (Big Pharma, something that rhymes… nah, not classy).

In 2015, Secretary Krebs took just about two months to get through the first initiative petition submitted (that was Jason Glodt’s crime victims bill of rights, which had about 53,000 signatures, comparable to this year’s VPAC Amendment). After the Secretary’s team got in the groove, they processed the subsequent 2015 petitions at a rate of about 14,000 signatures per working day. After VPACA, Secretary Krebs has seven petitions with 166,125 signatures to process. At the 2015-2016 work rate, that volume of signatures will take 24 work days to process. If the Secretary knocks out VPACA by December 15 and then doesn’t spill any egg nog on the remainder, she and her team can have all of these petitions validated by January 5, before the Legislative Session begins.


  1. Spencer 2017-11-06 20:42

    Cory, I think you do a remarkable job at summing up how much of a disaster this truly was for the New Approach South Dakota petitions. I hope they listen this time. I wonder if their turn to the dark side with assisted suicide is what pulled them under. It was a confusing message from the beginning…killing some while medicating others. It was increasingly obvious something was terribly wrong with Albonico and Mentele this last week. I could not have imagined that it was this bad. This is truly terrible, an incredible embarrassment and waste of time for everyone involved.

  2. grudznick 2017-11-06 20:52

    Let us hope much of this nonsense just bolsters the VNOE movement. I’ve ordered my VNOE signs, have you?

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-11-06 21:10

    Spencer, I will say I am relieved that I won’t have to spend the 2018 election defusing your hyperbole.

    But you are correct that the numbers show New Approach did a worse job this year than in 2015. They had all three petitions ready to go in April, had more organized training sessions, had an office in Sioux Falls, and still submitted fewer signatures for medical marijuana and only one of thee of their petitions.

    Now keep in mind, it could be that NASD really did collect more signatures on medical marijuana than they did in 2015, more rigorously vetted their medical marijuana petition, eliminated a whole bunch of bad sheets, and have submitted the cleanest petition yet. I’ll wipe that egg off my face if the time comes.

    One possibility—not stretching for excuses, just exploring any possibility that both of us could be wrong—could NASD’s work helping other petitions have distracted from their efforts on their own petitions? It will be interesting to hear just how many signatures NASD was able to add to the other petitions it hosted in its office.

  4. grudznick 2017-11-06 21:41

    You are correct, Mr. H, to use the second person plural on your verbiage. But of course, you were one of the good or better teachers who would know that. The English part of your sentence, though, should have read “As the Romans said…”

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-11-07 05:25

    Note that with the new statistical sampling thresholds approved by the Legislature this year, Secretary Krebs should be able to plow through the petitions, especially the amendment petitions with the larger signature counts, significantly faster.

    [Grudz, you need to think less linearly and live in the transdimensional multiverse. Besides, since you’re stuck in the past, I thought you’d feel more comfortable with a reference to living Romans.]

  6. Hank 2017-11-07 08:21

    I don’t think the work was done. I get to Sioux Falls once or twice a month for events (Washington Pavilion, Sanford Center, First Friday, etc.) and only once was I met with a petition this year. Previously I saw the folks out at every event working the lines, so, I was disappointed and while I could have gone to the office to sign, that activity isn’t on my list of things to do when I visit Sioux Falls. So, I relied on the workers approaching me so I could sign their petitions if I was in agreement with the issue and this year it only happened once and that was at the Pavilion after the performance of “The Book of Mormon”.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-11-08 06:07

    Interesting, Hank. I agree that, while the NASD office is a good idea, people in general will not come to sign petitions; circulators need to circulate. Is it possible those events you are talking about cracked down on circulators and forbade them from working the lines?

  8. Hank 2017-11-08 08:57

    It is possible, but across the street from the Washington Pavilion or in the parking lot at Denny Sanford or downtown on a First Friday don’t seem like places that can be restricted. I look for the petitioners and will sign most petitions, but the circulators were not obvious to me at any event other than the one at the pavilion.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-11-08 18:24

    True, Hank: public sidewalks in the places you describe should always be open for petitioning. Odd that the energetic and successful efforts of so many circulators in 2015 appear from what you’re saying not to have been translated into circulator practice this year.

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