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Board of Elections to Consider Legislative Petition Restrictions and More June 18

The Board of Elections will meet on June 18 in Pierre to formalize some of the restrictions the 2018 Legislature has foisted on petitioners and to consider some additional anti-democratic bureaucracy of its own.

1. Grill Your Circulators: Among proposed rule changes distributed by Secretary of State Shantel Krebs’s office this afternoon is the creation of a form to put into effect the most egregious of the Legislature’s attacks on initiative and referendum, House Bill 1196. Secretary Krebs is asking the board to consider adding to the ballot question sponsors’ affidavit the following questionnaire for sponsors to fill out for every one of their circulators:

(complete on a separate page, can have multiple pages)

Title of Ballot Measure ___


(1) Current state in which the petition circulator is licensed to drive, driver license number, and expiration date:______

(2) Current state of voter registration: _____

(3) Length of time at current physical street address and previous two addresses, and whether the prior addresses were located in South Dakota:_______

(4) A sworn statement by the petition circulator indicating the circulator’s intention to stay in the state after the petition circulation deadline.

(5) Any other information relevant to indicate residency, including a library card or utility bill.

(6) Whether the petition circulator pays in-state tuition at any public postsecondary educational institution, if applicable: ____

(7) Whether the petition circulator obtains any resident hunting or resident fishing license of any kind, if applicable: ___

The information included in the affidavit are factors in determining residency but are not determinative. The contents under this section of any affidavit filed with the secretary of state shall be held confidential by the secretary of state, and the secretary of state may release the contents only to an interested person for purposes of § 2-1-18 and to the attorney general. Failure to substantially comply with the provisions of this section shall disqualify the petitions from a petition circulator not in substantial compliance with this section from being considered [Secretary of State’s office, proposed change to ARSD 05:02;08:07.01, distributed 2018.05.08].

Making sponsors extract this information from every circulator will crush volunteer circulation, increase the prominence of paid circulator firms, increase the cost of petition drives, slow down the collection and submission of signatures, and ultimately reduce the number of voters whose voice will be heard in petition drives and ballot measure campaigns.

2. Petition Size: Another proposed change acts on the authorization in House Bill 1004 to limit petition size. Secretary Krebs is proposing amending ARSD 05:02:08:00.01 to limit statewide ballot question petition sheets to a width of eleven inches. The change would not restrict paper length or font size.

Additionally, the Secretary would require that all sheets in a petition, whether for a candidate or a ballot question, be the same size. As written, the amended rule would read, “No signature on a petition sheet may be counted if… Petition sheets for a candidate or a statewide ballot measure are not all the same size,” which suggests that if your statewide petition to run for governor consists of 200 sheets and 199 are 8.5″x11″ while one errant sheet is 9″x12″, the Secretary boots your entire petition, not just the errant sheet.

3. Don’t Cross the Petition Streams: Right under the new petition size rules, the Board will consider a move not clearly motivated by any new Legislative mandate. The Secretary is asking the Board for permission to toss petitions if “A petition for a statewide ballot question is mixed in with a different statewide ballot question petition….” I’ve seen such mixing happen: sponsors and circulators collaborate on multiple petition drives, and a sheet or two end up in the wrong box. Obviously, signatures on a stray sheet from the medical marijuana petition shouldn’t be counted toward the tobacco tax petition (although I can imagine some overlap of intent), but as with the above point on uniform size, this rule change as phrased would appear to nuke the entire petition for one small bookkeeping error.

4. Sort by Circulator: Another rule change under the guidelines for accepting petitions (ARSD 05:02:08:00) would require sponsors of statewide ballot questions to sort their petition sheets by circulator.

Picture this: Circulator Joe circulates three referendum petition sheets and submits them to Sponsor Rose on April 2. The sponsor a couple thousand more sheets by June 24 and boxed them up to take to Pierre. Then on June 26, as Sponsor Rose down the second-floor hall of the Capitol to the Secretary of State’s office to submit the petition on deadline day, Circulator Joe runs up to her and hands her three more signed and sealed petition sheets. Sponsor Rose throws them on the top of the stack and hands her boxed petition to the Secretary. The Secretary looks in the box, riffles through the papers, finds Circulator Joe’s sheets separated by hundreds of others, and rejects the whole petition with its 20,000 valid signatures… all because of one sorting error.

Nothing in HB 1196 or anything else passed by the 2018 Legislature requires this absurd rule (although if G. Mark Mickelson had thought of it, he’d have put it in a bill!). This additional requirement only makes it easier for the Secretary of State to find and toss all sheets from a rejected circulator. Yet strangely, the proposed rule would not apply to any candidate petitions, only to the initiative and referendum petitions that Secretary Krebs’s Republican friends are determined to complicate into impossibility.

5. No Doctors in the House: The Board of Elections does take one small swipe at candidates. Another rule change would reject petitions on which the declarations of candidacy include professional titles. As I sift through this year’s candidates, I find just two candidates whom this restriction would nix: Dr. Linda K. Burdette, candidate seeking reëlection to the Aberdeen Central School Board, and Dr. Leslie Heinemann, candidate seeing reëlection to the District 8 House.

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The state should be adding a public notice of this rules change hearing shortly. That public notice will include this invitation for public comment:

Persons interested in presenting data, opinions, and arguments for or against the proposed rules may do so by appearing in person at the hearing or by sending them to the South Dakota Secretary of State, State Capitol, 500 East Capitol, Pierre, South Dakota 57501. Material sent by mail must reach the Office of the Secretary of State by June 15, 2018, to be considered at the hearing [South Dakota State Board of Elections, Notice of Public Hearing to Adopt Rules, distributed 2018.05.08].

My comment is simple: The monkey wrenches that the Legislature keeps throwing into the initiative and referendum process are bad enough. But now, as the state Board of Elections prepares to formalize the requirements of HB 1196, the board is also throwing in some tricks of its own to make life harder for people trying to practice democracy. Statute commands that the board do something like #1 (and with you’re help, we’ll elect new legislators to repeal that command in 2019!), but #2 is optional, and #3 and #4 are unnecessary swipes at initiative and referendum. Do what you must with #1, but drop #2, #3, and #4. (#5 I can live with: why should anyone get to advertise an advanced degree on the ballot while no other candidates get to print résumé items next to their names to impress voters?)


  1. Jason 2018-05-08 22:10


    If the rules are published what is the problem?

  2. Curt 2018-05-08 22:37

    Are you sure you read the post? The rules themselves are the problem. Publication is required – just like the hearing which the notice will announce. The rules remain the problem in that they add unnecessary obstacles and impede citizen involvement in direct democracy.

  3. Jason 2018-05-08 22:42


    I’m not talking about obstacles.

    I’m saying that if the rules are known then you have to deal with them.

    The US has rules and certain Cities choose to obey them.

    Thankfully we don’t have that issue in SD.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-05-09 06:02

    The Nazis wrote down their rules stripping Jews of citizenship, forbidding them from practicing law, and prohibiting marriage between Jews and non-Jews. The rules were known, the Jews had to deal with them. Their publication and notoriety did not negate their wrongness.

    To review:

    HB 1196 requires the board to adopt something like #1. HB 1196 and any rule changes that stem from it should be repealed next year.

    #2 unfairly limits petitioners’ free speech.

    #3 and #4 create more opportunities to reject petitions on absurd technicalities.

    None of these changes are palatable. #5 is arguably tolerable.

  5. Jason 2018-05-09 07:42


    Just because you don’t like them does not mean you get to compare them to Nazi Germany.

    It’s funny you mention Nazis. Right now your party is fine with Jews dying.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-05-09 10:11

    My point is not to say that the Board of Elections and the Nazis are equivalent. My point is to refute your statement that writing rules down so people can deal with them makes rules o.k.

    Curt understands clearly that I am critiquing the proposed rule changes. Each change (except for #5) is bad for democracy and citizen participation. I will not be baited away from that position by outlandish distractions.

  7. Jason 2018-05-09 11:18

    How are the changes bad for Democracy and citizen participation? Follow the rules and you will not have a problem.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-05-09 14:07

    Answered before you asked; read the post. Each rule change would make it harder to circulate petitions and get measures on the ballot.

    The fact that citizens can follow new rules to avoid problems does not change the fact that the rules make their lives more difficult.

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