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People Power Petition Doesn’t Legalize Non-Resident Petitioners; Sham Circulator Laws Don’t Stop Them

Keep Calm and Sign the Petition—
Do your fellow South Dakotans a favor….

So far this week I’ve been publicly called a hypocrite and a liar online. I’ve properly refuted those false claims. Now I come to an online meeting as an invited speaker and get called a lawbreaker.

I spoke online this noon to a meeting of the League of Women Voters. (There were fellas in the audience, too.) Our topic was initiative, referendum, and the People Power Petition SD Voice is circulating to protect South Dakotans’ long-held constitutional right to slip the bonds and bunkum of partisan politics and dedicate at least a little bit of each election year honestly discussing policy.

During Q&A, one attendee asked how I feel about out-of-state petition circulators. I said I don’t like ’em, and neither does South Dakota law. (I avoided digging into the judicial weeds on the possible unconstitutionality of that law.)

The questioner then retorted that, apparently in 2015, people circulating the IM 22 petition (which I had mentioned earlier as the main catalyst of the Legislature’s war on initiative and referendum) told her they were from Minneapolis and wanted to put IM 22 on the ballot. “Your people,” said the questioner, were from out of state. Don’t we need stronger laws on circulators to prevent such lawbreakers from returning?

Now stop right there. People circulating IM 22 weren’t “my people.” I did not sponsor IM 22. I sponsored two referendum petitions that year, and I circulated the IM 22 petition and three other initiative petitions that summer and fall, but I did not hire, coordinate, pay, house, or otherwise have any responsibility for anyone else carrying IM 22 petitions.

The fact that the questioner got that fact wrong leads me to wonder what other facts the questioner might get wrong.

But let’s be clear about two concerns that the questioner appeared to express with her erroneous statement:

The first is minor and obvious: I do not and will not violate South Dakota law by employing non-residents to circulate my petitions.

The second is far more important, for the questioner makes one of the main points I make in arguing against the onerous laws our power-grabbing legislature keeps piling on petitioners. If the woman really witnessed such a flagrant violation of petition law in 2015, she could have called the cops. That’s what I did when I had evidence of out-of-staters illegally circulating petitions. But instead of action, I got the runaround. Instead of displaying a zeal for protecting the integrity of the petition process, state and local officials in four different offices passed the buck to each other until I got tired of pressing the issue. The state showed little interest in enforcing the laws it had in 2015 against out-of-state circulators; it seems unlikely they’ll show any similar enthusiasm for enforcing the new laws our Legislature has passed under that guise. Our legislators know they’re just creating more rigamarole that will trip up, frustrate, and ultimately deter grassroots citizens who want to participate in honest democracy… and which the out-of-state circulators that the questioner met—if she actually met any—will continue to laugh at as their big-money backers buy them all the documentation and lawyers they need to deter the state from bothering to prosecute.

The laws recent Legislatures have piled onto the petition process are a sham. They don’t stop lawbreakers; they stop lawmakers, citizen lawmakers who are priced and paperworked out of their own democracy.

The People Power Petition doesn’t favor out-of-state petitioners. The People Power Petition leaves in place our long-standing ban on out-of-state circulators and invites the state to enforce that ban… for once. But most importantly, the People Power Petition repeals sham laws that take away South Dakotans’ rights.

So, dear questioner, help me out. Stand up for the democracy you and I both care so deeply about. Don’t just sign the People Power Petition: circulate it (assuming you live in South Dakota, of course, and can do what the Legislature demands and provide a phone number, e-mail address, home address, two past addresses, your driver’s license, your hunting license, your library card, your utility bill…). Get your fellow Women Voters (and those fellas who lunched with you) to sign for our chance to vote.

And next time someone with a petition says she’s from Minneapolis, remember: she’s not my people! Call the cops!


  1. Debbo 2019-08-08 23:29

    Did she seem satisfied when you cleared that up for her?

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-08-09 05:55

    It was tough to tell, Debbo. We were connecting by Zoom, which is a solid program, but the Wi-Fi on the LWV’s end, at Pizza Ranch in Sioux Falls, seemed a bit weak, so I wasn’t getting a good video image. Plus, the questioner was sitting behind someone else, so I couldn’t read her expressions well. The way the questioner persisted suggested a determination to prove a preset opinion.

  3. Donald Pay 2019-08-09 09:03

    Most of the people making claims against circulators have no facts. They have a lot of delusions, but no facts. That’s been true for decades.

    Chem-Nuclear spent a lot of money trying to build a fact base against petition circulators in 1984. They hired a former federal gumshoe, who, I believe, is the father of Pat Powers. If anyone could develop the case against illegal or fraudulent petition circulation you would think a former federal law enforcement officer might be able to dig up one circulator who didn’t fit the description of “South Dakota resident and registered voter.” He found no such thing. In the course of that investigation, some circulators felt intimidated and threatened by Powers’ hired guns, who we thought used legally questionable measures to try to make their case.

    The people making these false claims have a lot of delusions, fed by political operatives who are working for the political elite in the state. These false claims have been floating around for decades. They’ve never been substantiated.

  4. leslie 2019-08-09 19:32

    Cory is doing more to defeat trump than any of the rest of us ( xcept maybe atty leach:). Ballot initiatives! Says michael moore, an uneducated angry old white guy!

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-08-11 10:01

    Hey, Donald, do you have any documentation on Chem-Nuclear’s effort to investigate and intimidate circulators? That information could be useful in my pending litigation.

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