Republican Caucus Works to Weaken Parties with Counter-Bill to Moot Conventions!
The bill my sources said was coming last week to moot the Libertarian/Constitutionist lawsuit against South Dakota’s onerous ballot access laws finally came today… and it stands in direct opposition filed by a separate cadre of Mickelson Republicans yesterday.
The lawsuit mooter is House Bill 1286, whose big reform, Section 3, allows our smaller political parties (those with less than 2.5% of total voter registration, deemed “alternative” parties by Section 1) to nominate candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Governor, and Legislature at convention. Nominations have to be in to the Secretary of State by the second Tuesday in August. There’s also an interesting tweak in Section 7, which appears to lower the signatures needed to start a new party that doesn’t participate in primary process from 2.5% of the votes cast for Governor in the last election to 1%. That would lower the signature threshold for forming a new party for the 2018 election from 6,936 to 2,775.
House Bill 1286 would satisfy the complaints that the South Dakota Libertarian and Constitution Party have lodged in their ballot-access lawsuit, which is slated to go to trial Monday. New parties would no longer have to organize by the end of March to qualify candidates for the November ballot. Citizens could wait until the end of the Legislative Session and see what candidates the major parties put forward before deciding that they need to form a new party and run candidates of their own. Such new reactionary parties get a lower signature threshold, making it more feasible for them to organize in that tight three-month window from the end of March to the end of June. And if they succeed in organizing, they get another month to hold a convention and nominate candidates for all statewide offices and for Legislature. Those new parties, along with the currently recognized but really small Liberatarian and Constitution parties, get to keep that right to nominate all candidates at convention until they comprise 2.5% of the registered electorate (as of today, 13,180 voters, or 7.9 times the current Lib tally and 28 times the Con), at which point those parties must select their Congressional, gubernatorial, and Legislative candidates by primary like the Democrats and Republicans do.
House Bill 1259, introduced yesterday, goes the opposite direction. HB 1259 limits what political parties can do at convention to nominating candidates for lieutenant governor, Presidential electors, and national committeepeople. HB 1259 strikes the statute (SDCL 12-5-21) directing conventions to nominate the other statewide offices—secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, public utilities commissioner, and commissioner of school and public lands—which probably means that candidates for those offices would have to circulate statewide petitions and stand for the primary just like Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in the status quo. By itself, HB 1259 would make it far more difficult for every political party, Republican, Democratic, and “alternative”, to field candidates for those second-tier ballot slots.
HB 1286 (the good one) and HB 1259 (the bad one) amend different statutes, so it is possible that the enactment of HB 1259 would not hinder the enactment of HB 1286. Pass both, and major parties would have to petition and primary all of their candidates except LG and electors, while the new language of HB 1286 would create the all-nomination exception for alternative parties.
But check out the sponsor lists:
- HB 1286: Representatives Qualm, Bartling, Hawley, and Peterson (Kent) and Senators Greenfield (Brock), Curd, and Maher.
- HB 1259: Representatives Johnson, Diedrich, Goodwin, Holmes, Johns, Lust, McPherson, Mickelson, Mills, Qualm, Rhoden, Schaefer, and Schoenfish and Senators Solano and Partridge
The sponsors of HB 1286 includes both parties’ leadership in both chambers except one, Speaker G. Mark Mickelson. Mickelson co-sponsors HB 1259, and we know he wants to kill small political parties. House Majority Leader Qualm is the only sponsor who appears on both bills; the other HB 1259 are an all-Republican group who appear interested in making conventions far less meaningful exercises with no attention toward the democracy-promoting reforms in HB 1286.
The sponsors of HB 1286 have included an emergency clause, meaning it will require a two-thirds majority vote to pass. If it does pass and pass quickly—i.e., before Judge Lawrence Piersol (assigned to replace Judge Karen Schreier in a January 25 order) hears the Lib/Con arguments against Secretary Shantel Krebs starting Tuesday, February 6, at 9 a.m. in Sioux Falls—HB 1286 would satisfy the plaintiffs’ constitutional complaints and moot the case. If HB 1259 passes, the Legislature would make South Dakota’s restrictions on ballot access even worse.
Weakening conventions and “alternative” parties, as HB 1259 intends, is basd for democracy. Opening the door wider for new parties to rise up and challenge an unresponsive status quo with a full slate of candidates, as HB 1286 intends, is good for democracy… and it gets us out of a lawsuit.
HB 1259 has been referred to House State Affairs; let’s send HB 1286 there, too, for the same day, and give sponsors and party organizers a chance to debate both bills head to head.