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Dems Executive Board Proposes Streamlined Top-Two Run-Off for March Chair Election

Six individuals are running to chair the South Dakota Democratic Party. How do we choose our chair?

As I’ve explained previously, the state party constitution only specifies that state party officers be chosen by weighted vote of the state central committee. The party constitution specifies no run-off procedures, so the election must default to Robert’s Rules of Order, which say that voting continues until one candidate receives a majority. My 10th Edition of Robert’s says no candidate has to withdraw:

The nominee receiving the lowest number of votes is never removed from the next ballot unless the bylaws so require, or unless he withdraws—which, in the absence of a bylaw, he is not obligated to do. The nominee in lowest place may turn out to be a “dark horse” on whom all factions may prefer to agree [Henry M. Robert III et al., “Nominations and Elections,” Robert’s Rules of Order, 10th Edition, 2000, pp. 426–427].

Now the party executive board, which includes the officers who are up for election on March 23, apparently wants a brief chair election, guaranteed to last no more than one hour. To that end, the executive board has recommended an election with no more than two votes:

  • Each candidate gets a one-minute nomination speech and a five-minute floor speech.
  • The central committee then votes.
  • If one candidate wins a simple majority of weighted votes on that first round, then habemus sellam(er, praesem!)
  • If no candidate clears 50%, the top two vote-getters go on a final ballot.
  • The run-off candidates and their allies get ten minutes to whip votes, then the committee votes, and we’re done.

Article 8 Section 3 empowers the executive board to make this recommendation, but the full state central committee has to vote on whether that’s how they want to vote. And that vote on election procedure is not weighted; it’s a straight nose count (they’ll count ayes, too). A vote from Sioux Falls will count 16 times as much as a vote from Pine Ridge in the chair election, but votes from Pine Ridge will be equal to votes from Sioux Falls in deciding how to conduct that election.

Central committee members wanting to get a jump on briefing out the candidates can watch this video, provided by Brookings County Democratic Party chair Mary Perpich, of last Saturday’s chair candidate forum:


  1. TAG 2019-02-13

    What a perfect opportunity for ranked-choice voting! (RCV) Maine has led the way, overcoming all legal challenges, and proving it to be a popular and viable way to elect from multiple candidate fields. It’s literally such an intuitive and simple solution it’s stupid.

  2. 96Tears 2019-02-13

    Is there a minimum public notice period prescribed in the SDDP constitution for this change in election rules? If so, has the executive board jumped through the legal hoops to notify the State Central Committee of this change? If the rules are changed, does the state party have to hit the reset button and give proper notice again of another date for the election of its top officers?

    The worst outcome is Ann Tornberg gets to be chair for another four year cycle.

    The SDDP needs a smart, no-nonsense Chair. The best candidate is Paula Hawks. Second best is John Cunningham.

  3. Debbo 2019-02-13

    It is. The Minnesota city governments that use it are very happy with it. It’s the largest cities that use it– Mpls, StP and Duluth. Rochester and others are planning to switch to it soon. There is a strong push to swing state elections that way too.

  4. Judy Judy Judy 2019-02-14

    96 Tears,

    Paula Hawks is actually the worst candidate. The first time she ran for office, she threw her fellow Democratic candidate, a good Democrat and a solid candidate, under the bus and teamed up with one of their Republican opponents to run as your “Bi-partisan Team” going so far as to send out a postcard picturing herself and her Republican opponent-turned-team-member to rural voters. At the very same time, she mailed a second postcard picturing herself and her fellow Democratic candidate as your “Democratic Team” to voters in Sioux Falls. When asked about this duplicity and public betrayal she first claimed her fellow Democratic candidate wasn’t a serious candidate and all was copacetic. Then, when informed this was untrue (a number of us campaigned door to door for her fellow Democratic candidate) , she claimed she knew nothing about the “Bi-partisan” postcard with her Republican opponent and that it had been sent without her say so. But, finally, when confronted with the financial report showing that $800.00 of this postcard’s cost had been paid for by the “Hawks for House” Committee, she claimed “the naivete of a first time candidate”, cocked her head to one side and did her best “poor little old me” routine. She is neither a good Democrat or an honest broker. As stubborn as Donald Trump, she has never apologized for her betrayal of her fellow Democratic candidate. Instead she over compensates for it, stating over and over again “We have to be proud to be Democrats” . I find her very disingenuous. The Democratic Party needs better.

  5. Jenny 2019-02-14

    If this is the worst that can be said about Paula Hawks, Then South Dakota Dems are in an even more pitiful place than I thought.
    Welcome to the world of politics. To call her dishonest is disingenuous.

  6. Judy Judy Judy 2019-02-14

    I called her disingenuous, Jenny, not dishonest. And to team up with the Republican candidate against her a fellow Democrat is very sly at best and it doesn’t beg well for her claimed desire to build the Democratic Party.

    I am always amazed at some peoples ability to forgive bad behavior in candidates who carry water for them without even asking for an explanation. Politics isn’t tiddlywinks but winning at all costs corrupts the process. I think good character is important in a public official, you apparently don’t care.

  7. Jenny 2019-02-14

    You said Paula Hawks is not an honest broker. I’m not exactly sure what that means and I do think good character is important in a public official. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-14

    96, Article 1 Section 5 requires that the party publicize timely and fully “a complete description of the legal and practical qualifications and duties for all officers and representatives of the party.” Would the number of votes required to obtain an office count as a legal qualification?

    Amendments to the party constitution require 30 days notice of the vote and do not take effect until filed with the SOS. The election procedure outlined above is not an amendment to the constitution, simply a policy.

  9. TAG 2019-02-14

    Looks like the influential Iowa Democratic caucus (for president) is seriously considering Ranked-Choice-Voting. (at least for the determination of non-viable candidates) That would be a game-changer for taking a lot of the vitrol and partisanship out of our 2020 national election. Perfect for what will likely be a crowded Dem ticket in the early caucuses, too.

    “So instead of taking an initial vote, determining “nonviable” candidates, and redistributing their support to others via physical grouping in the room, as occurs in the traditional caucus, participants in “virtual caucuses” will rank their five presidential favorites and a mechanical process of ranked-choice voting will redistribute votes for nonviable candidates…”

  10. Judy Judy Judy 2019-02-14

    Jennifer, I am glad to hear you think good character is important in a public official. Now the only question is if you think Paula displayed good or bad character when she betrayed her fellow Democratic House candidate? Obviously, I say bad character. What do you say?

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-16

    TAG, I’d love to see a mashup of ranked choice voting with the weighting spreadsheet.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-16

    Judyx3, I’m not throwing in with any candidate yet, but I ask you this: does good character win elections? When Hawks did what you point out (something I don’t like much, either), she won. She got a seat in the Legislature and was able to influence policy.

    Having won an election, Hawks has a better record than the current chair. How should other chair candidates respond to that argument?

  13. TAG 2019-02-18

    Cory: ” I’d love to see a mashup of ranked choice voting with the weighting spreadsheet.”

    I’m certain that would be possible. In your spreadsheet just eliminate all columns but: County, Sutton Vote, and SDDP Bottom (the field you would use for weighting)

    Then add six columns for each preference/choice. (1st choice, etc.) This is where you would tally the votes either with the name, or, better yet, just a letter. Assign a letter to each of the 6 candidates (A through F) for ease of entering data.

    Below the vote tallying, create a separate matrix with a row for each of the six candidates, and a column for each round of voting (there would be anywhere from 1 to 5 runoff rounds). Lining up the round one with preference 1 above might make sense. Also add a row below that for listing which candidate is eliminated in that round.

    The first round would be very easy to tabulate automatically using excel formulas, after that it would get a little more complicated, formula-wise. There is more that one way to do it. If you are really good with excel formulas, you can probably figure it out. Despite the complexity of tabulation, RCV is really not difficult at all for the voters, aside from a little acclimation.

    One possible solution to eliminate any very complex Excel formulas would be to have the “vote tally” portion as I described above, basically as a record and reference point, and then in six more columns after that, you would hand-tally each round, letting Excel weight it for you in a “round results” matrix as I described above.

    clear as mud?

  14. TAG 2019-02-18

    The hand-tallying each round sounds complicated, but it’s not. You would just copy-paste all the cells from the “first choice” column to the “round one” column. For round two, (if neccessary) you do the same, but just hand-change the votes for anyone who’s first choice was eliminated. Ditto for any remaining rounds. The spreadsheet would already be set up to calculate from there. Quick and easy. Of course, in an election with far more voters, you couldn’t do it in a spreadsheet. For this election, it would work like a charm, though.

    Multiple runoffs with only one round of actual voting.

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