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HB 1093 Makes Problematic Changes to Petition Challenge Process

The Legislature has one bill dealing with ballot question petitions on its plate this afternoon, House Bill 1093. When prime sponsor Rep. Jon Hansen first stuff this carcass bill with text, he had the wild idea of creating a separate, more investigative;y toothy pre-judicial process of challenging the validity of ballot question petitions through the Attorney General’s office, plus the unconscionable idea of making ballot question sponsors pay for any appearance the Attorney General would make in court on behalf of the Secretary of State in ballot question challenges.

Perhaps realizing that current Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg needs a chief of staff just to tie his tie correctly, House State Affairs Friday decided to ditch the new challenge option and those deadly legal fees and sent the House a new hoghouse of HB 1093. This version is less bad… but it still doesn’t serve the ballot question process well.

The new version of HB 1093 adds this language to ballot question petition law:

The secretary of state shall generate the random sample under § 2-1-16 and make available to the public the petitions and random sample validation sheets within thirty days of a request and payment of reasonable fees in accordance with § 1-8-10.

It appears the intent of this new line is to allow potential challengers to request a copy of the petition and the secretary’s random sample before the Secretary rules on the validity of the petition. Arguably, that gives challengers extra time to research the signatures and build their case. However, the 30-day time limit is potentially problematic. When I’ve requested access to ballot question petitions, I’ve found the Secretary has been able to process that request pretty quickly, even without a statutory deadline. Writing 30 days into the law opens the door for a less responsive Secretary to sit on a request, before or after validation, and delay a challenger’s ability to get going on a challenge. Imagine this timeline:

  1. Secretary receives ballot question petition on June 25.
  2. Citizen files request for petition and random sample on June 26.
  3. Secretary prepares and checks random sample and declares petition valid on June 27.
  4. Taking advantage of full 30-day period specified in HB 1093, Secretary releases requested petition copy and random sample to challenger on July 25.
  5. Because the challenge period to the Secretary is only 30 days, citizen has only two days to process the documents and file challenge with the Secretary.

To clarify the situation, HB 1093 should clarify that the Secretary must provide those documents within a week of the request (it’s not that hard) or amend statute to start the 30-day challenge clock from the day that the Secretary first makes the documents public.


  1. Debbo 2019-02-25 14:55

    More of the SDGOP showing the citizens who’s in charge. It’s sure not government of, by and for the people.

  2. Donald Pay 2019-02-25 15:42

    Under Dog the Dipsh*ts Rule.

  3. Hugh Hagel 2019-02-25 21:38

    Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota and Utah , have by voters initiated a law that expands Medicad and the Utah state government is totally controlled by republicans as is here , and the republicans in their state legislature is doing a end around to stop the will of the people, claiming that their people didn’t understand what they were doing . If the people of S.D. did the same thing our legislature would also do what Utah’s did ; but isn’t it better politics in you can just make the process of initiateing a law almost impossible.

  4. Jake Kammerer 2019-02-26 10:28

    Thanks to you, Cory, the ordinary people of South Dakota have been made aware of all the ‘hoodwinking the SD GOP is doing in regards to the initiative and petition process in SD. Donald Pay and others are also commended greatly. Thank You. The GOP is horribly afraid of the common people’s right to bring their own laws to a vote. The condescension attitude of our legislature is apparent. “We are smarter than you” -just trust us……

  5. Debbo 2019-02-26 13:24

    Hugh, add Idaho to your list. Same thing, voters approved expanding Medicaid, legislature is subverting their will. The Cult of GOP rules! At least, per their behavior.

    The states on your list Hugh, and all the states gerrymandered out of equal and fair representation, are no longer democracies.

    That’s not hyperbole. That’s fact by definition.

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