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Jackley Breaks Krebs’s Random-Sample Table; Rule Fix Needed!

Marty Jackley breaks the Secretary of State's random sampling table.
Drop 6,000 extra signatures on me on a Monday?! Roar!!

Marty Jackley broke the petition-sampling table, so Shantel Krebs had to order a new one!

Last Monday, our aspiringly gubernatorial Attorney General submitted his nominating petition. As a show of organizational force, Jackley submitted 8,264 signatures, 4.2 times the 1,955 Republicans need to run for statewide office. (Democrat Billie Sutton submitted 2,422 signatures, 3.4 times the 706 required of Democrats. Kristi Noem appears not to have tried making hay out of her signature count.)

As I reported last week, Jackley’s showing off created a problem for the Secretary of State’s office. For the first time, thanks to a new law passed in 2017, the Secretary of State certified statewide candidate petitions by using statistically rigorous random sampling rather than by counting and verifying all of signatures required. Statute directs that the Secretary sample “a number of signatures that is statistically correlative to not less than ninety-five percent level of confidence with a margin of error equal to not more than three and sixty-two one-hundredths percent” (SDCL 12-1-36; identical language is applied to ballot question petitions in SDCL 2-1-16). To avoid having to do math, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs recruited Northern State University statistician Sara Schmidt to run the numbers and make a table telling how many signatures to sample for various size petitions. The Board of Elections approved that table and wrote it into Administrative Rule 05:02:08:00.05.

Alas, the table only went from 250 signatures to 5,000, because, really, what knucklehead would submit more than 5,000 signatures when he only needs 1,955 (or, if he were an independent, 2,775)?

…best-laid plans…

But Secretary Krebs didn’t let that lack of foresight hold her down. She called statistician Schmidt and ordered a new table to cover sample sizes from 5,000 up to 20,000:

Sample Size

Signatures Submitted

“Safe Harbor” Sample Size

Sample Size % of Total

639 5,000 641 12.7800%
641 5,100 642 12.5686%
642 5,200 644 12.3462%
644 5,300 645 12.1509%
645 5,400 647 11.9444%
647 5,500 648 11.7636%
648 5,600 649 11.5714%
649 5,700 651 11.3860%
651 5,800 652 11.2241%
652 5,900 653 11.0508%
653 6,000 654 10.8833%
654 6,100 656 10.7213%
656 6,200 657 10.5806%
657 6,300 658 10.4286%
658 6,400 659 10.2813%
659 6,500 660 10.1385%
660 6,600 661 10.0000%
661 6,700 662 9.8657%
662 6,800 663 9.7353%
663 6,900 664 9.6087%
664  7,000 664 9.4857%
664 7,100 665 9.3521%
665 7,200 666 9.2361%
666 7,300 667 9.1233%
667 7,400 668 9.0135%
668 7,500 669 8.9067%
669 7,600 669 8.8026%
669 7,700 670 8.6883%
670 7,800 671 8.5897%
671 7,900 671 8.4937%
671 8,000 672 8.3875%
672 8,100 673 8.2963%
673 8,200 673 8.2073%
673 8,300 674 8.1084%
674 8,400 675 8.0238%
675 8,500 675 7.9412%
675 8,600 676 7.8488%
676 8,700 677 7.7701%
677 8,800 677 7.6932%
677 8,900 678 7.6067%
678 9,000 678 7.5333%
678 9,100 679 7.4505%
679 9,200 679 7.3804%
679 9,300 680 7.3011%
680 9,400 680 7.2340%
680 9,500 681 7.1579%
681 9,600 681 7.0938%
681 9,700 682 7.0206%
682 9,800 682 6.9592%
682 9,900 683 6.8889%
683 10,000 683 6.8300%
683 10,100 684 6.7624%
684 10,200 684 6.7059%
684 10,300 685 6.6408%
685 10,400 685 6.5865%
685 10,500 686 6.5238%
686 10,600 686 6.4717%
686 10,700 686 6.4112%
686 10,800 687 6.3519%
687 10,900 687 6.3028%
687 11,000 688 6.2455%
688 11,100 688 6.1982%
688 11,200 688 6.1429%
688 11,300 689 6.0885%
689 11,400 689 6.0439%
689 11,500 689 5.9913%
689 11,600 690 5.9397%
690 11,700 690 5.8974%
690 11,800 690 5.8475%
690 11,900 691 5.7983%
691 12,000 691 5.7583%
691 12,100 691 5.7107%
691 12,200 692 5.6639%
692 12,300 692 5.6260%
692 12,400 692 5.5806%
692 12,500 693 5.5360%
693 12,600 693 5.5000%
693 12,700 693 5.4567%
693 12,800 694 5.4141%
694 12,900 694 5.3798%
694 13,000 694 5.3385%
694 13,100 694 5.2977%
694 13,200 695 5.2576%
695 13,300 695 5.2256%
695 13,400 695 5.1866%
695 13,500 695 5.1481%
695 13,600 696 5.1103%
696 13,700 696 5.0803%
696 13,800 696 5.0435%
696 13,900 696 5.0072%
696 14,000 697 4.9714%
697 14,100 697 4.9433%
697 14,200 697 4.9085%
697 14,300 697 4.8741%
697 14,400 698 4.8403%
698 14,500 698 4.8138%
698 14,600 698 4.7808%
698 14,700 698 4.7483%
698 14,800 699 4.7162%
699 14,900 699 4.6913%
699 15,000 699 4.6600%
699 15,100 699 4.6291%
699 15,200 699 4.5987%
699 15,300 700 4.5686%
700 15,400 700 4.5455%
700 15,500 700 4.5161%
700 15,600 700 4.4872%
700 15,700 700 4.4586%
700 15,800 701 4.4304%
701 15,900 701 4.4088%
701 16,000 701 4.3813%
701 16,100 701 4.3540%
701 16,200 701 4.3272%
701 16,300 702 4.3006%
702 16,400 702 4.2805%
702 16,500 702 4.2545%
702 16,600 702 4.2289%
702 16,700 702 4.2036%
702 16,800 702 4.1786%
702 16,900 703 4.1538%
703 17,000 703 4.1353%
703 17,100 703 4.1111%
703 17,200 703 4.0872%
703 17,300 703 4.0636%
703 17,400 703 4.0402%
703 17,500 704 4.0171%
704 17,600 704 4.0000%
704 17,700 704 3.9774%
704 17,800 704 3.9551%
704 17,900 704 3.9330%
704 18,000 704 3.9111%
704 18,100 705 3.8895%
705 18,200 705 3.8736%
705 18,300 705 3.8525%
705 18,400 705 3.8315%
705 18,500 705 3.8108%
705 18,600 705 3.7903%
705 18,700 705 3.7701%
705 18,800 706 3.7500%
706 18,900 706 3.7354%
706 19,000 706 3.7158%
706 19,100 706 3.6963%
706 19,200 706 3.6771%
706 19,300 706 3.6580%
706 19,400 706 3.6392%
706 19,500 707 3.6205%
707 19,600 707 3.6071%
707 19,700 707 3.5888%
707 19,800 707 3.5707%
707 19,900 707 3.5528%
707 20,000 707 3.5350%

Attentive election nerds will notice that the “safe harbor” figures for signatures from 14,000 to 20,000 differ slightly from those listed in ARSD 05:02:08:00.05 for ballot question petitions. This difference likely arises because the existing ballot question signature table has increments of 1,000 while this ad hoc nominating petition table steps up by 100. Finer granularity means smaller safe-harbor round-ups.

But those increments expose a flaw in the wording of the existing rule. Read Part 8(b):

If the number of submitted signatures is between two numbers listed in the signatures submitted column, the Secretary of State shall round down to the lower number if the number is 500 or less and shall round up if the number is 501 and higher [ARSD 0:02:08:00.05, Part 8(b)].

This awkwardly written rule directs the Secretary to select a row on the table by rounding signatures to the nearest thousand. But both the existing nominating petition table and the above ad hoc table step up by 100. Rounding Jackley’s 8,264 to the nearest thousand would have meant sampling 762 signatures; rounding to the nearest hundred would have called for sampling 764. (My straight calculation from the formula, with no safe harbor, says the sample size should be 673.)

Now Marty’s primary challenger Kristi Noem could challenge Jackley’s petition (Krebs certified Jackley’s petition last week Monday, and statute gives five business days to challenge a nominating petition, so today’s the deadline for an in-office, non-court challenge) by saying that the Secretary certified the petition outside of existing rules. Such a challenge would likely fail: statute clearly tells the Secretary of State how to randomly sample any statewide petition; the failure of rule to translate that directive into practical spreadsheet guidance for every situation doesn’t prevent or invalidate the Secretary’s action in an extreme case.

But for the sake of completeness, the Board of Elections should add the above table to the rules. We should also rewrite Part 8(b) into four parts, the first to cover ballot question petitions, the second to cover nominating petitions, and the third and fourth to cover petitions exceeding the tabulated sizes:

(b) If the number of submitted signatures on a ballot question petition is between two numbers listed in the signatures submitted column on the statewide ballot question table, the Secretary of State shall round the number of submitted signatures to the nearest thousand.

(c) If the number of submitted signatures on a statewide candidate petition is between two numbers listed in the signatures submitted column on the statewide candidate table, the Secretary of State shall round the number of submitted signatures to the nearest hundred.

(d) If the number of submitted signatures on a statewide candidate petition exceeds the maximum number of signatures listed in the statewide candidate table, the Secretary of State shall apply the sampling table and rules for statewide ballot question petitions.

(e) If the number of submitted signatures on any statewide petition exceeds the maximum number of signatures listed in the statewide ballot question table, the Secretary apply the statistical formula specified in statute to determine the size of the random sample.

Amending the table and the rule discrepancy will go unnoticed by 99.99% of South Dakotans. It will have zero impact on who makes the ballot. But rules are rules, and they should be complete and correct. Bulk up that table and tighten those screws, in case Marty comes crashing in again with some extra-large petition!

4 Comments

  1. Debbo 2018-04-02

    You do love you some math, eh Cory?! 😊

  2. Darin Larson 2018-04-03

    So, 95% accuracy comports with our constitutional requirements in SD now?

  3. Darin Larson 2018-04-03

    And how can it be constitutional to require 2,775 signatures of an Independent candidate, but only 1,955 of a Republican candidate in SD?

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-04-03

    100%, Debbo. You will not find a legislator or a candidate who loves the mathematical nuts and bolts of election law more than I do. :-)

    Darin, apparently, yes. But I’d welcome a constitutional challenge that would return the SOS to the practice of verifying every signature instead of a sample… and perhaps applying the same standard to ballot question petitions.

    As for different signature requirements for candidates… well, if there’s a complaint to be had between indies and Republicans (and Democrats down at 706!), then there’s a complaint to be had over HB 1286 allowing alternative party candidates to access the same ballot by a mere nomination at convention decided by possibly a handful of delegate. How do we decide who gets on the ballot, and does fairness = equality?

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