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Mickelson Hopes to Kill Third Parties with Minimum Membership Requirements

G. Mark Mickelson, gunning for third parties
Gunning for third parties….

By the way, third parties: Mark Mickelson hates you, too.

I was expecting a hoghouse last week of House Bill 1012, which makes it easier for new political parties to retain their party status. No such hoghouse arose in Wednesday’s House State Affairs hearing. But Speaker G. Mark Mickelson piped up in committee to try amending HB 1012 to make it harder for new political parties to keep their status.

Apologizing for his admittedly dyspeptic behavior in a private meeting with the Secretary of State the previous week, Speaker Mickelson expressed his concern that an individual could create a political party with zero other members. (Speaker Mickelson shares the proclivity of other Republicans for fretting about things that aren’t happening or menacing society.) Toward this end, Mickelson proposed an amendment that would disband any political party that has less than one half of one percent of the total registered voters in South Dakota. By the count on January 2, that would be 2,646 voters. That would disqualify the Libertarians (only 1,659 registered voters) and the Constitutionists (only 471). Mickelson averred he’s not “out to get” the Libs or Cons, but his amendment would surely get them.

Worse, Mickelson’s amendment would disband those parties based on the voter count on April 1 in an election year. Thus, a party could go through the work of recruiting statewide candidates, get their petitions in for the primary by the last Tuesday in March, only to be kicked out of the primary on April 1. April Fools!

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs opposed Mickelson’s amendment specifically because it would boot the Libs and Cons. She also pointed out that new parties qualify for party status by collecting over 6,000 signatures on a petition, then keep it by winning a similar number of votes in a general election. She said those two demonstrations of support, especially the demonstration of support on Election Day, are all they should need to retain party status, and she rejected any arbitrary numerical threshold for registered membership.

When committee discussion revealed little support for Mickelson’s 0.5% minimum, he floated a minimum membership requirement of 1,000. Rep. Isaac Latterell spoke up and said even that requirement was unnecessary on top of the petition and vote requirements. Mickelson’s amendment to his amendment failed on an admittedly close voice vote, and Mickelson withdrew his original amendment and let HB 1012 roll on unamended.

Libs, Cons, and other party organizers, keep an eye on Mickelson and his multifarious (which isn’t a portmanteau of multiple and nefarious but in Mickelson’s case ought to be) attacks on democracy masquerading as reforms. The Speaker said in committee he firmly believes the state should subject political parties to some minimum membership requirement; he may look for other bills into which to sneak his party-killing plan.


  1. Bob Newland 2018-01-29 17:07

    It is becoming apparent that Mickelson is probably the principle reason SOS Krebs is having trouble getting a sensible law passed to level the playing field for alternative parties. Mickelson is going to cost the state nearly a million $.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-29 18:26

    Bob, I assume you’re referring to the Lib/Con lawsuit, which my sources said the not-realized hoghouse of HB 1012 was supposed to moot. If Mickelson really is monkey-wrenching an SOS effort in that direction, it’s probably on the basis of the same arrogant and ill-informed attitude he took toward protests over the Constitutionality of SB 69 in 2015.

  3. Bob Newland 2018-01-29 18:56

    I am. And, I wonder if Mark is the product of the gene pool that produced two governors of SoDak.

  4. John 2018-01-29 19:34

    Mark is more evidence in the truism that wealth and wisdom does not survive 3 generations in a family.

  5. grudznick 2018-01-29 19:37

    Some people say every 3rd generation is the insanest. Bob’s one, I’m one, Mick’s one.

  6. Kurt Evans 2018-01-29 19:58

    I’ve tried to keep an open mind about Mark. It just closed.

    The only reason I can see for a rational individual to create a one-member party would be South Dakota’s ridiculous punitive ballot-access restrictions against independent candidates. And what if someone did that, Mark? Who, exactly, would die?

    If authoritarian Republicans had better morals, they’d spend more time thinking about ranked-choice (“instant runoff”) voting and less time thinking about how to keep alternative voices out of the public square.

    Also, I’m backing Shantel in the Republican primary for Congress, partly because she doesn’t sponsor the Smear College blog and partly because I don’t believe she’d secretly plot to resign after she’s elected and take another job.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-29 20:48

    Krebs does deserve points in the primary for standing up to Mickelson. Now if she would only stand up to Trump….

  8. Eve Fisher 2018-01-30 09:23

    Mickelson keeps on trying to show us how much he doesn’t like or trust the citizens of South Dakota, doesn’t he? I haven’t seen someone what that great a fear of the public since Howard Hughes.

  9. o 2018-01-30 09:30

    My thinking goes the opposite direction for political parties. We want competition and fresh ideas, so maybe the SD GOP needs to be broken up for being a monopoly – like ATT in the 80’s. Like ATT, the GOP is using its immense size to now drown out and eliminate all dissenting voices.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-30 11:16

    O, I would welcome increased competition from effective third parties. A Legislature split three ways, with no party holding clear majority, not to mention the current veto-proof GOP 2/3 in both chambers, would provide an interesting experiment in more more representative democracy in our state.

    But Libertarians, Constitutionists, the onus is on you to recruit thousands of members, wage visible, viable campaigns, and claim more than the available default “none of the above” vote that some Libs got in 2014.

  11. Jason D. Hill 2018-01-30 14:20

    Excellent Article! Thanks for this. I agree with the sentiment expressed in some of the comments. I feel this is an attack on the citizens of SD. Since 1995 the Republicans have been in control of all 3 branches of government in this state. The majority do nothing until campaign time and then there is a huge scramble for support for all of the atrocious proposals they make, creating new laws, constricting freedoms, adding unnecessary and unequal taxes etc. when the reality is, and we’ve seen it with the repeal of our anti corruption law from 2016 in less than 3 months, That anything the Republicans truly care about concerning law and government, they get. So why try so hard to prevent new ideas and new voices in our state government? It makes no sense unless you consider that these establishment Republicans view anything contrary to what they promote to be devastating to their cause and control and it is and that is a good thing in my eyes. So yes Let’s have more diversity of opinion and let’s engage with ourselves, friends, and family and let’s take into account all of this information when we consider our laws and our government, but first we will have to vote for a 3rd party. This election look at alternative candidates and ask them questions and see if they may fit into your political ideals. You may be surprised.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-30 16:29

    Thanks for that reply, Jason, and for providing the link (click on his comment handle, folks!) to your Libertarian campaign page. Do you think you message against the GOP power grab will resonate with your District 28B neighbors, who’ve been pretty faithful to the GOP brand throughout that consolidation of one-party rule?

  13. grudznick 2018-01-30 18:10

    What if, for some bizarre reason just to mess with Mr. H, every sitting member of the Republican Party (save for Messrs. Nelson, Jensen, and Marty) went and changed their party registration tomorrow to Democratic? It would make for some fun caucusing, would it not? They could re-arrange seating. And then wait until next week and re-register back.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-31 10:19

    If G-Mick hates individual freedom to up and start one’s own iconoclastic party, should he also hate the ability of individuals to switch parties on a whim?

    Maybe it’s time to do like North Dakota or Minnesota, not include party affiliation on voter registration, and make party’s recruit members by other means on their own dime?

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