My fellow South Dakotans, you and I now each owe the South Dakota Libertarian and Constitution parties 71 cents.
Back in February, the state lost a lawsuit by the Libertarian and Constitution parties, who successfully argued, with the help of the ACLU, that South Dakota’s March deadline for forming new political parties violated their constitutional rights to ballot access. Of course, who really pays when our Legislature and Executive Branch choose to ignore good legal advice and pigheadedly discriminate against new parties to preserve the Republican lock on power? We taxpayers do. On Tuesday, Judge Lawrence Piersol ruled that we taxpayers need to pay the winning parties legal bills, to the tune of $619,584.30:
“South Dakota’s restrictions for third political parties to access the ballot were clearly unconstitutional. The ACLU suggested that we settle this case almost immediately after it was filed, when there would have been, at most, a small claim to fees,” said Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota. “But the state declined. Now, taxpayers are ultimately footing the bill because the state decided to defend ballot restrictions that were some of the harshest in the nation and clearly unnecessary” [American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, press release, 2018.10.04].
The state had multiple opportunities to avoid this expense. As late as this February, Judge Piersol signaled that the Legislature could pass one bill to make the lawsuit go away, but the Legislature dragged its feet, hoping legal minds would differ in their favor. That stubborn gambling costs you, me, and the guy under the leaf-shedding tree 71 cents each.
Neither the Libertarians nor the Constitutionists gain more than a moral victory from this six-figure award. On Monday, Judge Roberto Lange ruled against both Lora Hubbel and Terry LaFleur’s effort to stop the presses, throw out thousands of cast absentee votes, and print new ballots with someone, anyone, listed as a CP (C is for “Chaos”) candidate for governor. And even if the Libertarians could get over their aversion to tax dollars and accept any taxpayer-funded damages to back their gubernatorial candidate, Kurt Evans, they’re out of luck. The money pays the lawyers for their hard work. Lawyers from Robins Kaplan who helped, Brendan Johnson and Tim Billion, are donating their share to the ACLU. Enjoy.