The Libertarian and Constitution parties are supposed to get their day in court February 6, when federal Judge Karen Schreier plans to hear arguments in their lawsuit against South Dakota and its unfair ballot access laws. Judge Schreier’s rulings so far in the case signal the state is on its way to a beating at the hands of our minor parties.
Two sources tell me that Secretary of State Shantel Krebs will soon offer legislation to moot the suit and keep herself and Attorney General Marty Jackley from suffering an embarrassing court loss during their respective Congressional and gubernatorial campaigns. That legislation may include a later organizational petition filing date for new parties, longer time to circulate such organizing petitions, a reduction of the vote threshold party candidates must reach to maintain ballot access, and permission for new parties to nominate all of their candidates at convention instead of going through the primary process.
The Board of Elections, which Secretary Krebs chairs, has already submitted House Bill 1012, which changes state law to allow a minor party meeting the current 2.5% vote threshold in a general election to retain access to the ballot for four years rather than two. That bill includes an emergency clause: a two-thirds vote will allow it to take effect immediately upon passage and apply to all third-party candidates in this year’s election.
HB 1012 was scheduled for House State Affairs last Thursday but was bumped to this morning at 7:45 a.m. (where it will precede HB 1102, the silly and unconstitutional “Don’t forget God!” state seal bill). A hoghoused HB 1012 would be the swiftest route for all of the changes the state would need to make to provide all of the relief the Libertarians and Constitutionists seek in their lawsuit. If the Legislature could hurry a hoghoused HB 1012 to the Governor by February 5 (two weeks away!), they could render the lawsuit moot, and Secretary Krebs could claim credit for taking swift action (two and a half years after the plaintiffs sued over Legislative efforts to stifle new parties) to promote third-party rights and spare the state further legal expense.
Watch HB 1012 in committee this morning to see if the state is ready to concede that its ballot access laws are unfair to new political parties.
Update 07:54 CST: House State Affairs has again deferred HB 1012. Chair Larry Rhoden made no mention of any impending hoghouse.