Attorney General Marty Jackley provided his explanation this week of the best potential ballot measure in the 2020 hopper yet, my petition reform proposal. Alas, restricted by law to 200 words, the Attorney General had to choose some elements of the 2,567-word* proposal to highlight and some to omit. That choosing of some elements and not others demonstrates the hopeless task the Attorney General faces in trying to fulfill the law’s demand that he provide an “objective” explanation of each ballot measure. When the Attorney General chooses what is explained (and in what order) and what isn’t, the Attorney General inevitably embeds subjectivity in this official statement. The law then forces petitioners to distribute this subjective statement and forces the the Secretary of State to print this subjective statement on every ballot, rather than letting voters seek their own information and make up their own minds about each ballot measure without state interference.
That subjectivity (and Gaia help us when Dan Lederman gets to ghost-write them for Idiot-General-Elect Jason Ravnsborg) is precisely why I would love to remove the Attorney General’s explanation from the books. But we have bigger petition fish to fry.
To see what fish we are frying, let’s take a look at the Attorney General’s explanation alongside my explanation. For sport, I’ll set myself the same word limit as the Attorney General, 200. I make no claim to impossible objectivity:
This measure eliminates some information a ballot measure petition circulator must provide to a petition signer, including the circulator’s contact information and a statement whether the circulator is paid.
Additionally, the measure eliminates the law barring individuals from sponsoring or circulating petitions for four years if they have committed multiple petition-law violations.
It changes fiscal note requirements for initiated measures and initiated constitutional amendments, and removes fiscal notes from the ballot for these
By law, the Attorney General must write a title and an explanation for each initiated measure and initiated amendment. This proposal decreases the time in which the Attorney General must file the title. It eliminates the Attorney General’s deadline for filing an explanation for these types of measures.
Current law requires sponsors to file signed initiative petitions with the Secretary of State at least one year prior to the general election. The measure changes this deadline to four months prior.
Under this measure, most voter-approved ballot measures would take effect the day after the official vote canvass rather than the following July 1 as the law currently states.
The measure repeals the statute that prohibits an initiated measure from embracing more than one subject.
|Sections 1-3 stop forcing circulators to hand out personal contact and pay information while still requiring that circulators make available contact information about their petition’s sponsors.
Sections 1-3 allow circulators to provide required petition information in print or electronic format.
Sections 1-3 allow petitioners eight more months to obtain voter signatures.
Section 4 allows voter-approved measures to take effect one week after the vote but allows voters to approve later enactment dates.
Section 5 stops forcing citizens to give the state personal information and documents to exercise their right to petition.
Section 6 removes additional fines and potentially unconstitutional restrictions on petition rights.
Section 7 allows the Legislative Research Council to write more detailed fiscal notes and requires the LRC to provide this guidance in 15 days rather than 60.
Section 8 requires the Attorney General to explain initiatives in 15 days rather than 60 and shortens ballots by removing the fiscal note.
Section 9 removes a four-month delay, added in 2018, from LRC review of initiatives.
Section 10 repeals the single-subject rule for initiated measures.
Section 11 removes a reference to a statute repealed by Section 9.
|200 words||188 words|
I’ve submitted a minor revision to Attorney General Jackley. When he provides his revised explanation, I’ll submit a petition form to the Secretary of State and start handing out forms. Anyone who’d like a copy to circulate is welcome to volunteer… but remember, because of the Republican Legislature’s love of paperwork and hatred of grassroots democracy, to circulate this petition, you’ll have to give me (and, ultimately, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General) info from your driver’s license, voter registration, current address and last two home addresses, an affidavit swearing you’re not moving out of South Dakota after November 2020, a library card of utility bill if you have one, information about any in-state tuition you’re paying, and information about your hunting and fishing licenses. You’ll also have to carry around a stack of papers to give to signers that include your name, phone number, and e-mail address; my name, phone number, and e-mail address; your statement that you are a volunteer, the Attorney General’s explanation; the LRC’s fiscal note, if they issue one.
That list alone should make clear why I’m offering this initiative.
*Of the 2,567 words in the initiative, 877 are actual changes to statute; the rest is existing statutory language that must be printed for full context, plus headings. Section 11 exemplifies the complication of making a simple change. SDCL 12-13-25 poses no obstacles to the initiative process that require changes. However, this section refers to the oppressive four-month Session delay imposed by SDCL 12-13-25.2. Section 9 repeals that delay, so LRC noted that Section 11 is necessary to avoid reference to a dead statute. To remove that eight-word reference for consistency’s sake, the petition must thus print that entire otherwise harmless statute, increasing the length of the petition by 259 words, or by 11% of what the petition would have been without Section 11.
**Unlike two of the three citizen-initiated measures and amendments placed on the 2018 ballot and two of the seven initiated measures and amendments on the 2016 ballot, Attorney General Jackley finds no reason to suggest that this initiative may be challenged on constitutional grounds.