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Mitchell Paper, Mike Vehle Err in Discussing Ballot Measures

If you’re looking for reliable coverage of ballot measures, don’t look to the Michell paper. Their Monday report on David Owen’s local presentation on pending ballot measures contains multiple errors:

  1. “In the upcoming year, seven ballot measures will be considered, a decrease from last year’s 10 ballot measures.” Inaccurate: eight petitions have been submitted, but none have been certified for the ballot. Only four have enough signatures to make certification a good bet. And the Legislature may still pile a bunch of constitutional amendments onto our ballot. We thus have no idea how many ballot measures we will face in 2018.
  2. “Another measure, drafted by Speaker of the House Mark Mickelson, asks for a $1 increase on the state tobacco tax. The measure would generate an estimated $45 million, with $20 million designated to lowering student tuition at South Dakota’s four technical institutes.” $45 million—estimated by whom? I haven’t heard Mickelson project that much revenue. His measure envisions up to $20 million in new revenue for vo-techs. The best guess I get from FY2017 revenues multiplied by Mickelson’s increase is $37 million.
  3. “Ballot measures on physician assisted suicides and the use of gender-specific bathrooms both did not receive enough signatures.” Inaccurate: the anti-transgender initiatives (there were multiple drafts) didn’t receive any signatures. They never circulated. South Dakota’s Sharia-for-Jesus lobby discouraged sponsor Jack Heyd from circulating the petition, preferring instead to bank on a more theocratic Governor in 2019 and continued Republican efforts to weaken the initiative and referendum process to consolidate power in a more easily lobby-capturable Legislature.

One inaccuracy for which the Mitchell paper bears no blame is former Republican legislator Mike Vehle’s alarm about the vote-by-mail initiative:

One measure Owen discussed, which would allow certain elections to be conducted through a voting-by-mail process, sparked a reaction from former state Sen. Mike Vehle. Vehle, of Mitchell, raised questions about the measure on Monday.

“I think you are asking for a whole lot of fraud,” Vehle said [Libby Leyden, “SD Chamber Official Talks Ballot Measures in Mitchell,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2017.11.13].

Bonk on that, Mike. Voting by mail has boosted voter participation in Oregon  without any sign of increased voter fraud:

Huefner says he can see how vote by mail at its most problematic could help facilitate vote selling. “When we moved to secret balloting, it functionally made it impossible to bribe someone to vote a particular way, because you couldn’t confirm how a person voted. But with vote by mail, it’s easy to confirm,” he explains. He acknowledges, however, that there’s no evidence of this actually happening.

Bradbury, the former Oregon secretary of state, says vote by mail is actually better suited to counteract fraud than traditional voting. “It’s a very secure system because they check every person’s signature against that person’s voter registration signature before that ballot is counted” [Josh Cohen, “National ‘Vote by Mail’ Could Add Millions of Votes in 2018,” Yes Magazine, 2017.01.27].

Watch for which ballot measures get certified, then stay tuned to Dakota Free Press for the facts about the measures we get to vote on.


  1. Donald Pay 2017-11-15

    Yeah, that is really, really bad reporting in the Mitchell paper. It’s shocking that such misinformation would be printed. When you don’t verify basic information or seek out people to provide another side, you end up with stories that are essentially propaganda, or worse. Extremely bad editing is going on there at the Daily Republic.

  2. Dana P 2017-11-15

    “I think you are asking for a whole lot of fraud”, says guy – offering up zero proof or data that voting this way results in fraud.

    But again, that is what the current president does. Throws out conspiracy theories, backed up with nothing. That’s what Jason Ravsborg (sp?) does in his fear mongering about Islam. (and the list goes on) That’s where we are today. Sad

  3. grudznick 2017-11-15

    I expect there are few newspapers who do a decent job of explaining these issues. This, Mr. H, is where your true public service manifestos.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-11-16

    You’re right, Dana—Vehle gives us a one-off criticism with no evidence… and then the local paper lets that assertion stand without challenge.

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