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Even Odious Out-of-State Petition Circulators Have First Amendment Rights

I hate paid out-of-state petition circulators. The roving bands of mercenaries who make money traveling from state to state to carry petitions for state and local ballot measures pervert what should be a genuine, grassroots process. A law that’s worth a vote will already be on the minds of thousands of voters who are ready to sign and circulate petitions on their own. If nobody in the state is talking about an issue until a band of itinerant profiteers from Timbuktu pop up on our sidewalks and start shouting marketing points someone else wrote for them for $15 an hour and signature bonuses, the issue probably doesn’t deserve a vote.

Out-of-state circulators are even more abominable on nominating petitions. In South Dakota, any sufficiently motivated candidate for any local or district office should be able to collect all the signatures she needs to qualify for the ballot by herself on a couple of Saturdays. Statewide candidates may need some help to get their 706 (Dem), 1,955 (GOP), or 2,775 (indy) signatures, but, like ballot measures, a statewide candidate who can’t rouse her friends and neighbors statewide to sign and carry those petitions during three months of campaign events probably won’t mobilize the hundred times as many people she’ll need to vote for her in November.

However, as I have acknowledged during past petition drives, banning out-of-state circulators is probably unconstitutional. There is no judicial consensus, but residency requirements for petition circulators have been ruled by multiple courts to violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Another such residency requirement is being challenged by Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn. Last week, the Colorado Supreme Court kicked the six-term Republican off the June primary ballot because two of his circulators weren’t Colorado residents.* Rep. Lamborn is thus suing Colorado in federal court. Citing a 1999 case (Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation) in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Colorado’s name, badge, and disclosure requirements for petition circulators, Lamborn and fellow plaintiffs contend that petition circulation is “core political speech, because it involves interactive communication concerning political change” and thus deserves the highest First Amendment protection. The plaintiffs also cite a New Jersey case in which the Third Circuit just last week said New Jersey’s requirement that circulators be registered voters arguably “infringes out-of-state circulators’ First Amendment rights.”

Only a compelling state interest can supersede those First Amendment rights. Colorado claims a compelling interest in preserving the integrity of its candidate nominating process, but the plaintiffs contend that interest “is already served, for example, by the minimum signature requirement and the independent verification by the Colorado Secretary of State of the voter registration, political party affiliation, and individual signatures of electors who actually sign a nominating petition for a major political party candidate.”

U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer hears Lamborn’s case Monday morning in Denver. If the court buys Lamborn’s argument, it will add to the precedent just waiting to fall on South Dakota’s circulator residency requirements (see SDCL 2-1-1.3 and SDCL 12-1-3).

I don’t like out-of-staters mucking about in our politics, but I can’t constitutionally stop them from circulating petitions any more than G. Mark Mickelson and IM 24 can stop them from contributing to our ballot question committees. We should strike our residency requirement for circulators before some litigious mercenary petition crew gets a court to do it for us.

If we don’t like out-of-staters meddling in our elections, for principle or for profit, we’ll have to curb their influence ourselves. The next time petitioners hit the streets, ask circulators where they are from. Ask them why they are interested in putting measures on our ballot. If you’re not satisfied with the answers (and more so with the measures), don’t sign the petitions.

*Congressman Lamborn hired Colorado Springs firm Kennedy Enterprises to circulate his petition. Kennedy Enterprises says on its website, “We have never failed.”


  1. Donald Pay 2018-04-28 08:01

    I had forgotten about that case. I suggested in the 1990s that circulator training and badges be available from the SOS for South Dakota residents only. The idea was to make it voluntary. Only SD resident circulators would get the official badge.

  2. Porter Lansing 2018-04-28 08:28

    Why are they interested in putting measures on our ballot?
    My buddy Bill (age 64) here in CO travels nationwide circulating petitions. He does it for these reasons.
    1. He only works on issues he fully believes in. No petitions for candidates. These issues are almost always of a national impact and taking his special skills to backwater states where the explanation process isn’t as developed helps USA as a whole.
    2. This could easily be listed as number one. He does it for the money. Social Security doesn’t pay enough and an ex-wife took most of the retirement savings. Local laws in Evergreen shut down his AirBnB business and the extra cash is welcome.
    3. He likes the break in the routine of being retired. He enjoys meeting people. (When Bill worked in the Hills last cycle he wasn’t that happy about the crew of local meth heads that made up the people who had to stand next to him, though.)
    4. He actually got to meet and socialize with Angie Albonico. 😉

  3. Edwin Arndt 2018-04-28 09:08

    So Porter, could you name a few backwater states?

  4. Porter Lansing 2018-04-28 10:06

    Hi, Edwin. As an aside, I went to school with an Arndt. She was a lovely girl.
    I’ll admit, I used the word backwater as a type of bait. I know it’s often considered derogatory in “backwater” places and someone would get pissed and want an explanation. There’s a subject I’d like to touch on this morning and don’t want to be off topic. 😁
    First, here’s the dictionary definition of “backwater”.
    back·wa·ter – ˈbakˌwôdər
    noun – an isolated or peaceful place – “a sleepy Midwest backwater”
    ~ I used “backwater” here to describe a place where the majority is mistrustful, wary, suspicious and leery of strangers, often called “outsiders”. I don’t understand it psychologically but I do know that telling a child who’s afraid of dogs not to be afraid of dogs doesn’t help the child learn.
    Edwin or anyone, why do you think SoDakers are this way? Here’s a couple anecdotes.
    ~ I brought my daughter home to South Dakota a few times, as a kid. Once after a trip to the Red Owl grocery store she asked me, “Dad. Why do people stare at us?” I knew the answer but most visitors wouldn’t. “Because they don’t see many strangers ’round here.”
    ~ When coming back for pheasant hunting I should count the number of times I have to say, “I grew up here.” That’s usually all it takes to turn off the suspicion and turn on the welcome.
    So what say anyone? Grudzie. You’re especially hateful of “outsiders”. Why do you think you feel and act that way? Cory. I didn’t expect it from you but your post revealed a bit of repulsion of strangers. Is it just political or does it cover other groups of “outsiders”?
    Maybe my living in a group of three million people makes unconditional acceptance of strangers until proven wrong a bit easier and absolutely necessary for good mental health? I like to think so.

  5. JLB 2018-04-28 10:22

    The Eighth Circuit has upheld residency requirements for petition circulators. For us, that is about all that matters unless the US Supreme Court takes says otherwise.

  6. Porter Lansing 2018-04-28 10:24

    A very German answer, JLB. No reason to examine any other reasons for feelings towards outsiders.

  7. Edwin Arndt 2018-04-28 11:17

    Well Porter,you don’t have to be backwater to be peaceful. I do know
    that you do not win friends and influence people by using terms like backwater.
    Hillary never figured that out and according to her recent comments still
    hasn’t. You would do well to learn that lesson better than she has.

  8. Donald Pay 2018-04-28 11:27

    Why not out-of-state circulators? Because the SD Constitution places the initiative and referendum in the Legislative Article and makes thing pretty clear:

    “§ 1 (in part)… Legislative power–Initiative and referendum. The legislative power of the state shall be vested in a Legislature which shall consist of a senate and house of representatives. However, the people expressly reserve to themselves the right to propose measures, which shall be submitted to a vote of the electors of the state, and also the right to require that any laws which the Legislature may have enacted shall be submitted to a vote of the electors of the state before going into effect, except such laws as may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, support of the state government and its existing public institutions. Not more than five percent of the qualified electors of the state shall be required to invoke either the initiative or the referendum….”

    Everything in that article points to “…of the state….” I live in Wisconsin. Should I be allowed to vote for Cory H? No, though I think he’d make a great legislator. Should I, a former resident, be allowed to participate in an initiative in any capacity other than flapping my gums and providing my expert advise through the few electrons I send to Dakota Free Press from Wisconsin? No. I wouldn’t even send a few dollars to a committee because I so believe the process should be totally controlled by the “people of the state” as the SD constitution says.

    I think if you have a voluntary system of circulator identification for in-state residents with an official badge issued by the SOS identifying the in-state circulators, you can get around any Supreme Court decisions.

  9. Kurt Evans 2018-04-28 13:12

    Great research, Cory, and great post.

    The situation that would probably concern me most is one in which grassroots South Dakotans find they can more efficiently educate fellow South Dakotans about their preferred cause or candidate by contracting with nonresident petition circulators and fully devoting their own personal time to those educational efforts.

    In that scenario, the ban on nonresident circulators violates the First Amendment rights of the grassroots South Dakotans, which seems even more problematic than violating the rights of the circulators. Even if it didn’t violate the pro-liberty principles of the Constitution, I’d still regard the ban as bad law.

    Porter Lansing writes:

    First, here’s the dictionary definition of “backwater”.
    back·wa·ter – ˈbakˌwôdər
    noun – an isolated or peaceful place – “a sleepy Midwest backwater”

    I’m a native of Wessington Springs. As the town’s name suggests, it’s a literal backwater founded near natural springs. Porter may have intended backwater as a derogatory label, but I wouldn’t normally interpret it that way. Good fences make good neighbors, and so do miles and miles of green pastures. :-)

  10. Porter Lansing 2018-04-28 13:23

    Kurt says … I may have intended backwater in a derogatory way.
    – I did not intend backwater to mean anything other than peaceful and rural.
    – I used it to teach the true meaning.
    – To expose the default position of the majority when an unknown label is presented. I.E. “Some outsider is insulting us!!”
    – And, to initiate conversation about why the majority does what it does. The motivation behind the majority opinions, if you will.

  11. Kurt Evans 2018-04-28 13:40

    Porter had written:

    I used “backwater” here to describe a place where the majority is mistrustful, wary, suspicious and leery of strangers, often called “outsiders”.

    I’d written:

    Porter may have intended backwater as a derogatory label …

    Porter replies:

    I did not intend backwater to mean anything other than peaceful and rural.


    I don’t see how a place filled with the distrust and suspicion you describe could be peaceful.

  12. Porter Lansing 2018-04-28 14:02

    I don’t know what you can or can’t see, Kurt. I suppose you can’t see the politically decent pockets in South Dakota because the angry majority party is in the way. Tell me, why do you distrust “outsiders”?

  13. Edwin Arndt 2018-04-28 14:14

    Well Porter, some farmers have a mistrust of outsiders because they had a bad experience with
    pheasant hunters.

    Oh, I’m German too.

  14. Kurt Evans 2018-04-28 14:15

    Porter Lansing writes:

    I don’t know what you can or can’t see, Kurt… Tell me, why do you distrust “outsiders”?

    Answer my question first, Porter: Why are you so obnoxious?

  15. Porter Lansing 2018-04-28 14:28

    My bluntness probably “seems” obnoxious because you’re looking at it through a filter of defensiveness.
    Your turn KE.
    Mr. Arndt had a proper answer of which there are certainly many.
    Kurt, why do you distrust outsiders?
    The floor is your’s and anyone elses who can contribute to the question.

  16. bearcreekbat 2018-04-28 14:47

    Defining “outsiders” seems ambiguous and somewhat self-defeating. What is this person labeled an “outsider” outside of – one’s internal thoughts, the immediate family, the neighborhood, the town, the state, the nation, the world, a religion, a political party, a race, a gender, etc, etc?

    When you think about it, everyone could be labeled an “outsider” in one way or another. Indeed, declaring any group to be “outsiders” necessarily means the declarant has made himself an “outsider” from the group so-labeled.

    That is why Porter’s question is so important. It seems that fearing, distrusting, or hating so-called outsiders may well be a matter of projecting one’s own fears and doubts about themselves onto others.

  17. mike from iowa 2018-04-28 15:08

    If you can’t define it, wouldn’t you know it when you see it? Kinda like pornography?

  18. mike from iowa 2018-04-28 15:12

    Porter is much like me. He is sometimes here for the fun and you keep it on the run once you jump it and get the ball rolling.

    OTOH, some people here take themselves waaaayyyyyy too seriously.

    Occasionally stop and smell the humor around you.

  19. bearcreekbat 2018-04-28 16:15

    mfi, When I was young my family and I were “outsiders,” mainly because we did not have indoor plumbing. We had to either go outside or use the “outhouse” built to accommodate “outsiders.”

  20. mike from iowa 2018-04-28 18:00

    +1 BCB, That will keep me chuckling most of the night. Gracias!

  21. bearcreekbat 2018-04-28 18:14

    mfi – “Smell the humor” indeed! Along with that olfactory delight I remember the time when my aunt was trapped in our outhouse by an angry cow in the early morning. I can’t recall how she ultimately escaped, but I remember seeing the cow banging against the outhouse door.

    It taught me that “las vacas son peligrosas!”

  22. mike from iowa 2018-04-28 19:54

    Be worth doing to sit around and listen to some of your stories, bcb. I had to have that translated and I heartily agree about the danger since I no longer have to feed the beasties.

  23. Debbo 2018-04-28 23:53

    BBC said, “It seems that fearing, distrusting, or hating so-called outsiders may well be a matter of projecting one’s own fears and doubts about themselves onto others.”

    That seems pretty reasonable to me. About right in fact.

    I grew up in the middle of SoDak, spent about 50 years getting educated, working and living in all parts of the state and it will always be dear to me. Also terribly frustrating to watch that fear and distrust of “outsiders” make the people of the state into their own worst enemies.

    That’s a big reason why I left. I’m very happy here in Minn, and I’ll always be pulling for SoDakers to gather up their courage, take a big risk, and it’s definitely a very big risk, and go for it. I want SoDak to do the new thing, set a Big Outrageous Goal, a Moon Shot! I want SoDak to be a really great state, as great as its potential.

    So I come to DFP when I can and Push and make people uncomfortable and try to support brave encouragers like Cory, Donald, BCB and others.

    That’s my speech and I mean every word. I love SoDak and it DRIVES ME TOO CRAZY TO LIVE THERE!

  24. Kurt Evans 2018-04-28 23:58

    Porter Lansing had written:

    I don’t know what you can or can’t see, Kurt… Tell me, why do you distrust “outsiders”?

    I’d replied:

    Answer my question first, Porter: Why are you so obnoxious?

    Porter writes:

    My bluntness probably “seems” obnoxious because you’re looking at it through a filter of defensiveness.

    Yes, but your ethnic and regional pigeonholing was obnoxious before I felt defensive.

    You haven’t answered my question.

  25. mike from iowa 2018-04-29 07:35

    I wondered about your Aunt all night long, bcb, then it finally dawned on me (no pun intended). Having the bejeezus scared out of one in a small venue made for the disposal of bejeezus is as close to perfection and as simple as life gets. Enlightenment? Tao of Cow? Who knew?

  26. grudznick 2018-04-29 08:43

    Mr. Evans had written:

    Yes, but your ethnic and regional pigeonholing was obnoxious before I felt defensive.

    grudznick believes Mr. Lansing got one of Mr. Evans goats.

  27. Donald Pay 2018-04-29 11:24

    Debbo speaks for a lot of folks who end up leaving SD. We love the state, but we find we have to leave. so, we have a love/hate relationship with South Dakota.

    For me it was mostly my own economic situation, but the political situation, racism and the corruption were also factors. It was nice to earn money and have benefits for a decent retirement, and live in an area that had progressive politics that valued diversity.

    It was very hard to leave, though. I left when I was beginning to make a difference on the Rapid City school board, but without a change in the state education funding, nothing really good was going to happen. It was just going to be managing the district down from excellence to mediocrity. I helped save the strings program and the debate program for a couple years. While I was there, I kept the state free of nuclear waste and big waste dumps, and had some impact on the mining issue and other issues. But, the forces of evil are so great in South Dakota that you have to put in 100 percent effort into it, and I couldn’t do it and survive.

  28. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-04-29 11:52

    I like Donald’s voluntary certification and badge idea. I’d be proud to earn one of those badges. Maybe every March (January, when candidates are getting started?), each county auditor could offer a free certification class. You come in, present ID, listen for an hour, get to see sample petitions, even practice circulating and signing the circulator’s oath. Maybe there could even be a certification petition: to earn the badge, the circulator has to go walk around town (or maybe just the courthouse!) that day and get five signatures from registered voters. If there are five people in class, everybody quick signs everybody else’s petition, and life is good. The auditor notarizes those oaths, checks the signatures in the voter database (while the circulators are watching, so they can see how the process works and what errors might be found), and then hands out badges: “Certified South Dakota Circulator”—fun!

    And that badge infringes on no one’s rights. Anybody could still pick up a petition and circulate, but we would have our cool little Good Petitionkeeping symbol.

    But as Porter and bearcreekbat note, there I go, drawing divisions between my preferred group and “outsiders.” There could be a problem there, and I’m open to the criticism… but I wonder if I can come up with a non-hateful justification for my preferences here. Is my resistance to signing a petition for a South Dakota law carried by a Coloradan any different from my choice to respond to candidate surveys from South Dakota PACs but generally ignore questionnaires sent from out-of-state PACs… or, viewed another way, to prioritize responding to the questions of people who will vote for me and for whom I will legislate over people not subject to the laws of South Dakota?

    Of course, here I am in my comment section, talking to all sorts of people who live outside South Dakota…. ;-)

  29. Porter Lansing 2018-04-29 13:44

    You can imagine that when I ask, “Why don’t you trust outsiders?” Many are thinking to themselves, “Why should I?” Well, there IS a reason.
    ~ When you’d rather not think about it. When you don’t want to examine why you feel a certain way. When you just do it because that’s the way you feel about it, then people like Pat Powers and Mark Mickelson use those suppressed feelings to manipulate you politically. They make a living in politics harping over and over that outside money is bad. Outside influence is bad yet they get big checks in the mail every month from outside mega-PAC’s that pay them to manipulate your feelings. Sarge, Jason, Anne, KM, Duggar, Grudz, Sibson, Kurt, Tara and those like them are just political puppets. They have this deep inner need to be part of a group … any group. And all it takes is to mimic what the group says and they’ll welcome you and you’ll feel connected.
    ~ Ponder this. Liberals are like cats. Most of the time you don’t even know we’re around. We don’t need to be connected. We don’t need an angry pack to feel included. We just need freedom. We just need to help people that no one else will help.
    ~ If you think “outsiders” from far away are telling you what to do, it’s really not like that at all, folks. There are people far away that absolutely care about the underdogs in South Dakota. Underdogs who have very little voice. Underdogs being pushed around and told what to do. Good decent people who are suppressed by the angry majority and there’s not a darn thing they can do about it … except, move away. You see angry political majority, we outsiders don’t care what you do. We care what you don’t do and who that hurts. And it’s our duty as Americans and Patriots to try and help.

  30. mike from iowa 2018-04-29 17:06

    Porter, are you saying wingnuts don’t have a need to help the koch bros to everyone else’s money? :)

  31. Porter Lansing 2018-04-29 17:20

    I’m saying that whenever Republicans are on the wrong side of an issue, like the people voting for an ethics commission, Republicans blame out of stater’s and out of state money. Money and ideas are fungible. It doesn’t matter where ideas and money come from. Last I checked there’s no money being minted or printed that says South Dakota on it. It all says USA.

  32. Jason 2018-04-29 17:26


    How is your friend Soros doing? When will the Dems stop using his money?

  33. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-29 17:53

    This is America, George Soros is free to do with his money what he will. That shouldn’t even be a question.
    republicans use the Internet Research Agency for their talking points.

  34. grudznick 2018-04-29 18:09

    Stay out of South Dakota. It’s ours.

  35. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-29 18:11


    Sioux Tribes have been saying for centuries, “stay out of South Dakota. It’s ours”.

  36. grudznick 2018-04-29 18:12

    I guess I was plagiarizing.

  37. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-29 18:13

    I guess you were.

  38. Debbo 2018-04-29 19:47

    BOOM! Roger for the Win!!!!!

  39. Jason 2018-04-29 22:26


    Do you lie like I proved Roger does on this website?

  40. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-29 22:33

    Ah! The known plagiarist speaks.
    Speaking of lying, just like Trump does, Jason made a remark about Porter and blamed me when it was perfectly clear I made no such comment.
    Jason, a liar and plagiarist neatly wrapped up in one Trumptard.

  41. Jason 2018-04-29 22:38


    Are you drunk?

    I never mentioned Porter in this thread today.

  42. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-29 22:43

    I don’t drink or use drugs, you probably can’t say the same.
    You didn’t say anything about Porter on this thread, but I did, to remind you of another one of your lies.

  43. Donald Pay 2018-04-30 07:28

    I don’t agree with Porter on this. My experience was that it was mostly Republicans who got led around by the nose by out-of-state interests. Almost all the scams (which is short for “Republican economic development”) South Dakotans had foisted on them from the late-1970s to today have had out-of-state or foreign ownership. Even the newly hatched scam involving a veiled bribe from Agnico Eagle Mines, a Canadian company, to mine at the Gilt Edge Superfund Site has a foreign connection.

  44. Porter Lansing 2018-04-30 08:06

    I think we agree, Donald. I was speaking to the Republicans on this blog, of which there are many since the Catholic blog is so boring. The angry majority gets scammed by out of state interests and blames out of state interests at the same time. Outsiders are always the enemy. The real issue, in my opinion is why the voters buy into it.

  45. Porter Lansing 2018-04-30 09:20

    Here’s why I can’t blame the outsider/foreign interests. It’s just business and it’s expected to be one sided. There’s a “predictable progression” of events. I read the news from all three places and here’s how it almost always goes down.
    ~ These business deals start in California and propose ways to rape the Sierras. The ideas are laughed out of the state by a liberal statehouse.
    ~ These business deals move to Colorado and propose ways to rape the Rockies. The ideas are laughed out of the state by a liberal statehouse.
    ~ These business deals move to South Dakota and propose ways to rape the Black Hills. The ideas are strongly considered by the Republican statehouse. (The history of money being pocketed by politicians can’t be ignored.)
    Business is business. I’d say 90% of all business proposals are one sided scams. The problem isn’t with the proposals, it’s with the lack of discipline while Republicans are in stewardship of South Dakota’s environment.

  46. Donald Pay 2018-04-30 09:33

    OK, I get it, Porter.

  47. Debbo 2018-04-30 14:13

    Well explained Porter. And this that Donald said, “Almost all the scams (which is short for “Republican economic development”) South Dakotans had foisted on them from the late-1970s to today have had out-of-state or foreign ownership.”

  48. Kurt Evans 2018-04-30 23:56

    Porter Lansing writes:

    Sarge, Jason, Anne, KM, Duggar, Grudz, Sibson, Kurt, Tara and those like them are just political puppets. They have this deep inner need to be part of a group … any group.

    Porter had previously written to me:

    My bluntness probably “seems” obnoxious because you’re looking at it through a filter of defensiveness.

    And also because what you’re bluntly asserting is very nearly the opposite of the truth.

  49. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-05-01 17:28

    Perhaps Porter is calling us to greater discernment in our political argumentation. We can’t brand a ballot question or candidate bad simply because outsiders are supporting that ballot question or candidate. We must consider those outsiders’ motives. If we can see that our faraway fellow Americans are acting with a genuine interest in improving life for their friends in South Dakota, then rock on. If we see that those outsiders are backing something or someone on the South Dakota ballot mostly to push their own personal, political, or profit-making agenda, then screw ’em.

    Note that applies to circulators, too, wherever they are from. If you’re marching that petition because you want to stop gerrymandering, hand me your pen. If you came here from California just to stand in front of my courthouse and make a buck, don’t bother me. (Besides, even after the courts overturn our residency requirement, South Dakota ballot question committees should hire locally to promote the economy and engage more local activists.)

  50. Porter Lansing 2018-05-01 17:43

    You have it Cory. Thanks.
    PS … My friend Bill tells me it’s very difficult to get pro circulators to come to South Dakota. Too windy, buggy and humid. He only came for the issues.
    My conclusion on why Republicans don’t want outsiders. They have too much to hide to be truly transparent about their dirty politics.
    – Doug (the Pariah) Lamborn’s appeal is still ongoing. He’s arguing the validity of the signature is foremost. Stopping out of state circulators is impeding their free speech. Yesterday, the State’s attorney asked why Lamborn hadn’t brought up the free speech impediment before he got caught. His attorney said it worked fine until it didn’t.

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