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!