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Secretary of State Already Forcing Ballot Question Petition Circulators to Register Before Exercising First Amendment Rights

It turns out we don’t need Representative Jon Hansen’s House Bill 1094 to create a petition circulator registry. We already have one.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Steve Barnett approved my initiative petition for circulation. In compliance with SDCL 2-1-1.2, I mailed the Secretary of State hard copies of my notarized sponsor affidavit, the official petition, and the circulator form that anyone collecting signatures must hand to each signer.

SDVoice circulator form: Front
SDVoice circulator form: Front
SDVoice circulator form: Back
SDVoice circulator form: Back

But before anyone, even I the sponsor, can collect a single signature, the Secretary of State’s office is advising that I must submit an updated copy of the circulator form marked with that circulator’s name, phone number, e-mail address, and rate of pay.

Now recall that in 2017, there was no such requirement to submit a new form for each circulator. Petition sponsors could submit generic sheets with rates of pay, as G. Mark Mickelson did for his petition drive, and go to work, recruiting circulators without delay. But in 2018, G. Mark Mickelson’s Legislature passed House Bill 1177 (one of the statutes my initiative seeks to repeal), which adds circulator name, e-mail, and phone to the information that must be on the circulator form.

This requirement stymies recruitment of circulators as surely as the circulator registry Rep. Hansen is trying to create.

Right now, I have no idea who will circulate my petition. I’d like to offer you all the PDFs right now (again, here’s the petition, which you need to print front and back on 11×17 paper, then fold into a booklet; and here’s the generic circulator form that you can print front and back, cut into quarters, with your information either pasted on before you print or handwritten after) and say, hit the streets! But before you do that, you have to mail, e-mail, or fax your customized circulator form to the Secretary of State (see below) and wait for the Secretary’s approval to collect signatures.

You can only reach the Secretary of State during business hours. So if you are heading to work at 6 a.m. and want to collect some signatures in the break room before you start your shift, you have to wait until Secretary Barnett or someone in elections turns the lights on in Pierre at 8 and okays your circulator form. If I’m at Red Rooster some evening after work with a couple extra petitions and a neighbor asks if she can take one home and get signatures from her neighbors, she has to wait until the Secretary gets back in the office the next day and approves her form.

And the killer: if I’m at the State Fair on a Friday evening and ten new friends walk up and volunteer to help collect signatures from the folks swamping my petition booth, I have to say, “Thanks but no thanks,” because the Secretary of State’s office won’t be open until Tuesday morning, after the Labor Day break, to approve their custom circulator forms.

Plus, those circulator forms will be public record. Like Mickelson’s 2017 circulator forms, all of our volunteer circulator forms will be available from the Secretary of State, probably on the public ballot question website. So my volunteer circulators won’t just be handing out their names and phone numbers to signers; they’ll be providing their personal contact information to everyone, including political opponents who might want to harass them for consorting with that godless name-caller Cory Heidelberger.

Thus, Representative Jon Hansen can shelve his House Bill 1094. We already have a circulator registry to drive a spike in the efforts of grassroots South Dakotans to circulate ballot measure petitions.

But hey! Don’t let the grim (and probably unconstitutional) state of South Dakota petition law dampen your circulating spirits! If you help collect signatures for my petition, we can repeal those burdensome rules and show the Legislature that We the People are still the boss. Come grab a petition sheet (or ten!) and circulator forms, or download and print your own. Fill in the circulator info yourself, send a copy of the circulator form to Secretary Barnett, and let’s go to work!

The law requiring copies of every circulator form is written in the passive voice—”The form shall be approved by the secretary of state prior to circulation“—thus, it does not specify that the petition sponsor has to submit the customized circulator form. Circulators should thus be able to add their name, phone, e-mail, and pay to a circulator form, take a picture of that form with their phones, and e-mail it to the SOS for what, during business hours, at least, could be instant approval:

  • email:
  • mail: Secretary of State, 500  E. Capitol Ave Suite 204, Pierre, SD 57501
  • fax: 605.773.6580


  1. Nick Nemec 2019-02-15 16:54

    This really is an onerous requirement. In effect it eliminates the possibility that citizen volunteers will carry petitions and relegates the task to professionals, likely paid professionals. Apparently the state motto doesn’t mean what I thought it meant.

  2. Porter Lansing 2019-02-15 17:49

    The SDGOP campaign telling voters NOT to sign petitions is no different than telling voters not to vote.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-15 18:18

    Exactly, Nick. This registration requirement makes it impossible to convert casual interest into participation. This requirement deters civic participation, running counter to the spirit of the Legislature’s push for civics education. If people can’t participate easily in the process, how will they ever get the chance to really apply their civics learning?

  4. Debbo 2019-02-15 22:08

    It’s the SDGOP telling South Dakotans to back off! The SDGOP is in charge and the citizens better do as they’re told.

  5. Francis Schaffer 2019-02-15 22:09

    So I can register as a circulator and anyone with a petition can contact me and ask me to circulate his/her petition?

  6. Jason 2019-02-17 10:26

    So Cory is trying to hide the Attorney General explanation from the people signing the petition.

    Not many people signing the petition will go to a website before signing it.

    Talk about lack of transparency.

    The motto of the Democrat party is to hide the truth so this does not surprise me.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-17 11:31

    Francis, no. Under current law, if you want to circulate my petition, we have to submit a circulator form to the SOS with your name, e-mail, and phone number on it. If you decide to circulate another petition for another sponsor or a second petition that I might sponsor, we have to submit a whole ‘nother circulator form.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-17 11:36

    Jason, you’re lying again.

    Under current law and under my proposal, the petition must include the attorney general’s explanation. Before signing, every person sees that petition and can demand to see that text on the front page of the petition. The Attorney General’s explanation is hidden from no one.

    Current law requires that circulators hand the circulator form, with the AG explanation, to every person who signs the petition. It’s like a receipt, a reminder that the person has signed, with contact info for further questions. Lots of people turn that piece of paper down. Are those signers guilty of hiding something? Of course not.

    My measure does not hide the AG’s explanation. My measure offers people a way to get even more information more conveniently. Suggesting otherwise is a deliberate misrepresentation.

    Note also that my measure allows the public to learn more about the fiscal impact of the measure by lifting the 50-word limit under which LRC currently labors in producing fiscal notes on ballot measures. I’m all about giving people more information more conveniently, not less.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-17 11:39

    (I’m also sick of the fact that Jason gets to falsely call me a liar, by name, harming with his falsehoods my reputation and my efforts to serve the public interest, but he continues to hide behind a name that no one can trace so that he doesn’t have to be held accountable publicly for his actual lies. If you’re going to keep falsely calling me a liar, Jason, I challenge you to do so with your full name. Then you and I can both face the public on an equal footing, see who believes whom, and see who really deserves to be called a liar in public.)

  10. Jason 2019-02-17 11:51

    I admit I read it wrong.

    What you are trying to do it seems is get out of giving them a piece of paper that they will more likely read than go to a website.

    I admit when I am wrong Cory. You don’t and never have on here.

    Case in point is the Covington kids and the factual evidence shown by the States that expanded medicare costs them money.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-17 12:01

    Thank you for clarifying that I am not a liar, Jason. Read and think before you make false accusations.

    Now, when will you start using your full name for full accountability, as I do? You continue to change the subject and lie about me.

    My petition is honest. It hides no information from voters. I’m trying to make it easier for everyone to share and get information.

    Consider that right now, if a circulator has a line of 20 people waiting to sign and the circulator runs out of circulator forms, the circulator has to stop circulating. “Sorry, folks! We’re out of forms! You can’t sign the petition until the boss delivers more forms!” Under my proposal, my circulators can still carry a stack of forms (because we recognize that some people do prefer paper). We can also show people the AG’s explanation on the petition itself, on the document they are signing, along with the actual initiative text. But if we run out of circulator forms, we can bring it up on our phones, or better yet, have the signers bring it up on their phones, where they are far less likely to lose it.

    On what basis do you say that people are more likely to read a piece of paper than something on their phones? People throw papers away; they won’t throw their phones away. Plus, people are far more likely to share something they read on their phones than a piece of paper. Allowing circulators to promote the online information helps inform more people more quickly, and it’s a way to provide more information than we can on any piece of paper. I’d much rather receive a link to a website with the full text of the petition I just signed than a little piece of paper with the AG’s biased and possibly incorrect and incomplete explanation.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-17 13:43

    Go home? Nearly every person on the street has an Internet-capable device on their person. The Internet is always with us. So is the petition which spells out the AG’s explanation and the entire text of the bill, which I will show to anyone who wants to take the time to read it.

    Notice that my own circulator handout demonstrates my commitment to providing far more information than required by statute. I go above and beyond, providing my website and my own section-by-section explanation, which is clearer and more complete than the Attorney General’s.

  13. Debbo 2019-02-17 17:13

    C’mon “Jason.” Quit being a coward like Grudz/Murphy. What’s your real name? Don’t you believe in what you’re saying? I think maybe you do, but you’re ashamed to let anyone know that’s what you really think. I’d be ashamed if I felt that way too.

  14. grudznick 2019-02-17 17:27

    Jig and a hornpipe, is grudznick owed 4 free breakfasts next week or not?

  15. denson 2019-02-19 08:06

    OK no problem i want to sign your petition….where the best place in Rapid City to find a petitioner?

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-02-20 20:53

    Hey, Denson, I don’t have a circulator out there yet, but let’s talk offline… heck your e-mail!

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