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Heidelberger Meta-Initiative Available for Review

The Secretary of State has posted another potential initiative for the 2020 ballot—my initiative on initiative and referendum! Technically, we should call an initiative about initiatives a meta-initiative, right?

On Thursday, August 23, I submitted a twenty-section initiative designed to repeal most of the attacks that Republicans in the 2018 Legislature enacted against our power of initiative and referendum. I also included some ideas about candidate petitions. Here’s my summary of the main points:

  • Get rid of the personal information and compelled speech the state requires people circulating ballot measure petitions to hand out [Sections 1, 2, & 3].
  • Stop the Legislature from using bogus “emergency clauses” to prevent citizens from referring a bad law [Section 4].
  • Stop the Board of Elections from limiting the scope of ballot measures through tricky page and font rules [Sections 4 & 5].
  • Allow measures approved by the voters to take effect when the voters say so instead of letting the legislature delay them until July [Section 6].
  • Restore citizens’ ability to challenge the Secretary of State’s certification and rejection of petitions [Sections 7 & 8].
  • Repeal intrusive circulator paperwork requirements intended to stifle grassroots petition efforts [Sections 9 & 10].
  • Allow the Legislative Research Council to fully explain its fiscal analyses of initiatives [Section 11].
  • Eliminate the Attorney General’s explanation of initiatives, which too often becomes a political and courtroom football [Section 12].
  • Reduce from 60 days to five days the period that the Attorney General can delay circulation of initiative petitions [Section 12].
  • Repeal the four-month delay the Legislature added to the initiative process [Section 13].
  • Repeal the unnecessary single-subject rule for initiatives [Section 14].
  • Make all petitions available for free online for public review [Section 15].
  • Require the Secretary of State to more thoroughly examine signatures on ballot question petitions [Sections 16 & 17].
  • Allow candidates for Legislature to file their nominating petitions at their local courthouse [Section 18].
  • Repeal random sampling and require the Secretary of State to review all signatures on statewide nominating petitions [Section 19].
  • Require election officials to more thoroughly review nominating petitions for legislative and county candidates [Section 20].

On September 5 (a full seven business days sooner than he had to respond—kudos to LRC for fast action!), Legislative Research Council director Jason Hancock responded with the statutorily required corrections and suggestions:

  1. Forget the title “An Act to revise certain provisions regarding elections”—the A.G. gets to write the title.
  2. Use parentheses, not periods, to set off numbered subsections.
  3. Check wording: a couple of times, I either missed or added a word!
  4. Don’t try allowing us to refer emergency-clause measures in an initiated measure—gotta amend the constitution for that!
  5. As a bonus, LRC finds two more statutes that have to be amended to take into account my repeal of a couple of sections dealing my repeal of random sampling on nominating petitions and my repeal of the new near-Session four-month delay of LRC review of petitions (which I filed in August to avoid!). Thus, LRC actually expands my initiative from 20 sections to 22. I’ll be cutting….

But hey! With this one initiative, I’ve composed and offered for public comment more legislation than my opponent in the District 3 Senate race, Al Novstrup, has offered all summer. And unlike Al, I invite your public comment on this initiative. Tell me what you think… but tell me fast! If we want to be able to start circulating this petition in November, I need to write a final draft and submit it to Attorney General Marty Jackley soon, especially since there’s no guarantee he’d act with LRC’s alacrity and submit his necessary explanation before his sixty-day deadline.


  1. jerry 2018-09-09

    Very good Cory! I like the way this is analyzed. It helps to make my responsibility as a voter that much simpler. I can read the law and how it will impact my life as a South Dakota voter. Very important, thanks!

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-09-09

    I’m glad this summary helps, Jerry! Perhaps we should require every legislator to post such a public summary with every bill. I recognize that my initiative as written is a real pain to read, because it has to work within the framework of existing laws and show all the cross-outs and added language. My head even spins trying to read before and after like that in one text.

  3. Debbo 2018-09-10

    Good work Cory. Kudos to you for trying to make it easier for citizens to participate in their government.

    THEIR government. The citizens. That notion seems to have slipped past the SD Pootiepublicans.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-09-10

    That’s the idea, Debbo. The government is us, not Novstrup and Bolin’s Club.

    Ideally, we won’t need to put this measure on the ballot. Elect me and several other Democrats this fall, and we’ll just pass this measure and send it for Governor Billie Sutton’s signature.

  5. Dana P 2018-09-10

    Man, great work, Cory. Thank you for laying this out for us in the way you did.

  6. PlanningStudent 2018-09-10

    Allow candidates for Legislature to file their nominating petitions at their local courthouse [Section 18].

    Many legislative districts touch more than one county. Will they be able to file in any of those counties? Does it still get forwarded to the SOS for full review or would that be done at the recipient county?

  7. Darin Larson 2018-09-10

    Cory, I applaud your efforts here. I would suggest that you evaluate each provision and weigh its relative importance to the primary goal at hand. I would streamline it as much as possible and focus on securing and protecting the initiative and referendum process. Anything that does not directly serve that effort should probably be eliminated in my opinion because the additional provisions distract from the main purpose and could be subject to attacks from the forces that will align against your effort. I would suggest eliminating sections 18-20 at a minimum.

  8. PlanningStudent 2018-09-10

    I 2nd Mr. Larson’s suggestion

  9. Donald Pay 2018-09-10

    I like the proposals. However, along with Darin I prefer “KISS” legislation.

    As you know I’ve been critical of just about everything the Legislature has done on this issue since the 1990s. Back then deadlines for the initiative were after the Legislature, and the petitioning process was less bureaucratic. I have a simple solution. Just repeal everything since 1999. This would still keep the AG ballot explanation, which should go, but it would drop the forced speech aspect during petitioning. Also, I would constitute a citizen committee to go over changes. Your changes probably would lead the list.

    “Title: People Rule Initiative”

    Section 1. Statutes and amendments to statutes passed since 1999 regarding the initiative and referendum, or as applied to the initiative and referendum are repealed as to their effect on the initiative and referendum process. The statutes and rules as they affected the initiative and referendum process in effect as of July 1, 1999 shall govern the initiative and referendum process until such time as changes to those laws are enacted by the Committee constituted in Section 2.

    Section 2. The Secretary of State shall appoint a Initiative and Referendum Process Reform Committee made up of citizens in the state who have sponsored initiatives or referendums. This Committee shall propose any necessary amendments to the Constitution and any necessary revisions to statutes and regulations governing the initiative and referendum, and submit them to voters by initiative by May 2020. This committee shall look into new methods of petitioning, presenting educational information to citizens on ballot measures and checking signature validity, including use of technology to streamline the petitioning process, and to make validation of petitions easier.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-09-10

    PlanningStudent: yes, a legislative candidate in a multi-county district would be able to submit her petition “in the office of the county auditor in one of the counties where the office sought will be on the ballot.” Section 20 makes it the duty of the officer receiving the petition to examine and validate the petition.

    Darin, I agree: prioritizing and streamlining is in order.

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