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Turbiville’s Death Means Next Governor May Appoint District 31 Representative on Day 1 of Session

The death of Deadwood mayor and District 31 State Representative Charles M. Turbiville leaves voters in Lawrence County with a complicated electoral situation.

Ballots were finalized in August, and early voters started marking them on September 21. Many District 31 residents have thus already cast their votes for Legislature, and surely some of them have cast one of their two votes for the now-deceased incumbent. We do not toss those ballots.

Nor do we print new ballots. District 31 residents casting votes from now through Election Day will have the option of casting one of their two votes for a man who is now unable to serve. The other options on the ballot are incumbent Rep. Tim Johns and Democratic challengers Naveen Malik and Wyatt* Osthus.

If two of the living candidates are the top vote-getters, then nothing weird happens. The winners take the oath in Pierre on January 8 and go to work in the Legislature.

But if the deceased candidate places first or second, it will fall to the Governor to appoint Turbiville’s replacement in the 2019–2020 Legislature.

Governor Dennis Daugaard got to do this after the 2016 election. Rep. Dan Dryden died shortly before the election, with his name on the ballot. Governor Daugaard encouraged voters to mark Dryden’s name so he could appoint David Lust to the seat, and voters obliged.

But this time, the vacancy the Governor must fill does not occur until January 8, after Dennis Daugaard departs for Dell Rapids and our new Governor takes his or her oath.

District 31 voters thus face an unusual gamble. If they cast a vote for Turbiville, they are really saying, “Let the next Governor pick,” even as we sit amidst a governor’s race with no certain outcome.

Perhaps there isn’t much struggle here: folks wanting change from the one-party status quo should vote for Osthus and Malik. Folks wanting to stick with Republicans should vote for Johns and Turbiville and then pray for Kristi Noem to get her poop in a group and stop turning off voters.

But recognize that every vote for Chuck Turbiville is, in a way, a 50% vote for Billie Sutton to pick one of District 31’s next Representatives. And if that opportunity arises, Governor Sutton will face a test of his non-partisanship before a single bill reaches his desk.

Correction 23:19 CDT: Holy cow! I originally read Wyatt and typed Wayne. I apologize to all the Wyatts and Waynes out there for the confusion!


  1. Pamela Baum 2018-10-22 13:06

    The second Democratic candidate’s name should be corrected to “Wyatt” Osthus.

  2. Francis Schaffer 2018-10-22 17:07

    Well if he voted early, they will have to pull that ballot.

  3. grudgenutz 2018-10-22 19:33

    Just got a polling phone call. The interviewer asked if I was on a cellphone (I wasn’t), and if I was in a place where I could talk without endangering myself (I was).

    Several questions about whether I was registered, whether I intended to vote, how old I was, etc. Then several about my intent vis-a-vis statewide candidates, with extras about Noem and Sutton.

    The giveaway as to who was doing the poll came with, “Would it affect your feelings about Sutton if you knew he had voted for a 16.5¢ fuel-tax increase?”

    I said no.

    Somewhere along the way he asked why I felt about Noem as I did. I said she was ineffective and spiteful.

  4. grudznick 2018-10-22 21:14

    I got the same call. Except I was in a place where I couldn’t talk without endangering myself. You know what I mean, Bob.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-22 22:44

    Oh, man! I hope they run that poll here in District 3 and remind everyone that Al Novstrup voted for that tax increase, too! That would synergize perfectly with my campaign strategy!

  6. John 2018-10-22 22:49

    Thanks for your analysis. Likely, unfortunately, it is accurate, albeit wrongful as declaring that a corporation is a person. Having a governor appoint a legislator is not exercising the will of the people or the electorate. It is not the practice of democracy. The deceased, however beloved, revered, may carry the votes, but is not capable of serving, tending the oath of office, so the vote, however honoring – should be a nullity in the eyes of a democracy – and thus set aside. A party running a septuagenarian takes that risk. Here there is plenty of time to call and exercise a special election to vote for and timely in-place a representative before the legislative session. Yet, the process lacks the will and means. This analysis is not personal. I liked Chuck, a lot.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-22 22:50

    Oh my—Francis knows his election law!

    Whenever, prior to the casting of absentee ballots, it is made to appear by due proof to the county auditor or election board that any voter who has marked and forwarded an absentee ballot has died prior to the opening of the polls on the date of the election, the ballot of the voter shall be returned in the unsealed return envelope with the evidence of death attached and the envelope marked “Unopened by reason of death of voter” to the officer in charge of the conduct of the election. The casting of any such ballot shall not invalidate the election [SDCL 12-19-9.2].

    If you’ve cast an early ballot, for Pete’s sake, stay healthy until November 6!

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-22 23:20

    Dang! Sorry, Pamela and Wyatt! I have corrected the error above.

  9. Francis 2018-10-23 07:54

    It happened to my Grandfather. He had cast an absentee ballot then died before election day. This was in 1928.

  10. Donald Pay 2018-10-23 10:34

    I never understand people who think they can hold two offices at once. Why is that allowed? Can a person hold three, many elected offices at once, or is there a legal limit of two?

    The ought to be a law the stops this. Cory, there’s a suggestion for your second bill in the hopper.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-23 22:22

    Donald, I’m open to that idea. Are there any offices that we could justify allowing people to hold at the same time? Is there any argument that if we don’t let people be mayor and legislator, we might run short of candidates?

    Actually, I think I could dismiss any such argument. Holding two offices provides too many opportunities for an incumbent to promote himself with the resources and name recognition of each office.

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