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On Being an Election Nerd at the South Dakota State Fair

After the Huron rain, between snack breaks (I haven’t had a corn dog yet, but Kevin let me eat some of his fries), secret whispers with my fellow revolutionaries (and one gun nut who says he goes down to Arizona each year to use his AR-15 to control invasive species), and a shoe break to Potter’s Shoes, where the ever-attentive Susan Fullerton finally separated me from my money and put some nice red Merrells on my feet, I spent a little time at the State Fair yesterday circulating the two hardest-to-explain petitions on the street:

  1. The People Power Petition, in which I invite the voters of South Dakota to read and repeal or revise eleven sections of election law to remove the delays, bureaucracy, and paperwork that the Legislature has recently enact to kill the initiative and referendum process and throttle South Dakotans’ constitutional right to direct democracy (I invite you to think up a shorter midway pitch); and
  2. The redistricting petition, in which former legislator Dan Ahlers invites the voters to eliminate gerrymandering (stop right there: try explaining that term to person next to you in under fifteen seconds) by stripping his former colleagues in Pierre of their map-rigging power and empaneling five people to draw the map under strict constitutional, non-partisan, non-person rules.

I collected about 115 signatures on each election-nerd petition. Some allies around the fairgrounds collected more. And while I didn’t have it in my hands, I directed many of my signers to speak to my friends with New Approach SD (who helped direct my war-Beetle through the mud to share their campsite out in the restful west shelterbelt last night) who are petitioning to let your doctor prescribe you medical cannabis without a second opinion from our Governor, who lacks a medical degree to qualify her to pronounce on the issue.

Trash can, treasurer on ATM, tractor at SD State Fair, Huron sd 2019.08.31
One man’s trash is another man’s Treasurer?

One person who understood and signed all three petitions was South Dakota Treasurer Josh Haeder. He sat down in the SD Voice/New Approach booth, asked well-informed questions about the ballot question petition process and the proposed reformed redistricting commission. He was ready to sign the medical cannabis petition without any urging; he needed a little extra persuading on the anti-gerrymandering petition, just because he was curious about how exactly the new commission would be chosen and restricted from drawing partisan Legislative district boundaries, but I think I won him over by pointing out that he could sign the petition to put the matter to a vote and let the whole state discuss and decide the matter. “I’m all about the people,” said Treasurer Haeder as a her flourished his pen one more time.

I’m back at the Fair today, watching the clouds clear out and the crowds come in. I’ll be circulating, and if you’re here, I hope you’ll be signing.

CAH/SDVoice at SD State Fair, Huron, SD 2019.09.01
Tell the Legislature who’s boss: sign the petitions!

I did see Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg patrolling the grounds this morning at breakfast time. Maybe he’ll swing by to check circulator IDs… but I suspect that, as he is involved in federal litigation concerning South Dakota’s oppression of petitioners and voters with its draconian and unconstitutional overregulation of the initiative and referendum process, he’ll probably refrain from from creating a conflict of interest by signing any petitions today.


  1. Porter Lansing 2019-09-01

    Will you sign my People Power Petition to help remove the political roadblocks to democracy? Thank you. It’s become far to difficult for people to vote on new ideas.

  2. Carol 2019-09-01

    Thank you!

  3. Porter Lansing 2019-09-01

    Awwwwww ….. Poor Pat Powers is so amazed that Republicans didn’t buy his invented lies about the People Power Petition that they’re joining the State Treasurer and choosing to put the decision on the ballot, where it belongs.
    Perfidious Pat is trying to bully you fine fair goers with even more lies about an Initiative that will simply remove Republican roadblocks to the people’s constitutional right to choose their state’s future.
    Guess what, Repubs. Pat Powers is a liar! No big revelation, though.

  4. Debbo 2019-09-01

    Good for you and all the others working to make SD as democratic as possible despite the efforts of the SDGOP!

    The Sunday Strib carried an article about elections, specifically women’s suffrage. It was a listing of Midwestern sites to visit in honor of the centennial celebration of the passing of the 19th Amendment. (I suppose there would have been national celebrations marking this great moment in US history, if not for the inept, bungling and misogynist deministration currently occupying the WH.)

    Nonetheless, here is the SD section of the fine article written by DianeLambdin Meyer:

    “Many Minnesotans have visited Huron, S.D., the childhood home of Minnesota senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. That small town is also the home of mother-and-daughter suffragettes Mamie and Gladys Pyle. In 1922, Gladys became the first woman elected to South Dakota’s House of Representatives. In 1938, she was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

    “The Pyle House Museum is filled with campaign items and other memorabilia that by today’s standards seem hysterically archaic, such as a shaving mug bearing the seal of the South Dakota House.”

  5. Chuck Standen 2019-09-01

    The People Power Petition: the effort to remind our arrogant legislators that they answer to the citizens of South Dakota.

  6. T 2019-09-01

    Thank you CH

  7. Buckobear 2019-09-02

    Nice sentiment Chuck; but they don’t.
    In the words of the Tom Paxton song “what did you learn in school today? — Our leaders are the finest men and we elect ’em again and again and again ……”

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-09-02

    I try Porter’s suggestion—”sign a petition to help democracy work better”—and get no significant bump.

    I try “Show the Legislature who’s boss” and get about the same non-response.

    My calls to celebrate democracy are met with smirks and the occasional propaganda trained, faux-intellectual, “We’re a Republic, not a Democracy,” which seems to be Trumpist code for “Hail, Caesar!”

    I welcome further suggestions for a punchy, effective way to summarize what the People Power Petition is about.

  9. Richard Schriever 2019-09-02

    South Dakota was the first state to give its citizens the opportunity to exercise direct democracy through petition. Our right to govern ourselves now under attack. Sign the People Power petition to keep our rights to self-rule.

  10. Jon H 2019-09-02

    Sign a petition to help make South Dakota legislators work for us instead of for themselves. Thanks for all you do Cory!

  11. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-09-02

    “Would you like to help us keep our ability to change South Dakota laws?”

  12. MC 2019-09-02

    Cory, I am going to take issue with your term ‘Gun Nut’

    Just because someone owns a firearm, specifically the AR-15 does not make them a Gun Nut. The AR-15 is an excellent tool for controlling varmints, like coyotes and raccoons. Many ranchers and farmers have quick access to a Mini-14 or AR-15 for this purpose. I don’t consider them to be gun nuts, Rather business owners protecting their investment. I believe firearms to be a better tool for this purpose than the M-44 Cyanide Bomb.

    As far as your friend goes, I would want more information. Is he going to Arizona to help a friend? What species is he shooting? How many rifles does he go out with? I wouldn’t want to pass judgments until I have all the facts

    I know you like your labels, I would be careful painting with too broad of a brush

  13. jerry 2019-09-02

    The ranchers and farmers you know are pee poor shooters then. I will match them anytime with a Ruger American for coyotes. Note to MC, coyotes will not “human wave” assault you. One shot, one kill, 5.56mm NATO. Give it a go, reasonable priced as well. The scope is key. Only a gun nut thinks the AR is for anything other than a war machine.

  14. Debbo 2019-09-03

    We managed to take care of varmints of all kinds and sizes in addition to hunting pheasants, deer and waterfowl without ever needing an AR anything. Our 410 and 12 gauge shotguns, plus 22 and 243 rifles did the trick just fine. We stayed safe and filled the freezer for the winter.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-09-03

    MC, our conversation covered more than just that rather expensive and overblown species-control measure. I see gun-nuttery in making gun rights a primary political issue (as my interlocutor did) at the expense of attention to far more widespread, practical problems that cannot be solved with guns, like paying teachers, paving roads, protecting free speech, etc.

  16. mike from iowa 2019-09-03

    As for redistricting/gerrymandering, Juan Williams had this to say and it is eye opening:

    Sinate majority was elected by only 18% of the voters due to gerrymandering, voter suppression and other wingnut skullduggery.

    A Quinnipiac University poll in late April indicated 81 percent of registered voters nationwide agree that the process for confirming justices is “too political.”

    David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report reported last August that the 52 Republican senators who began the 115th Congress — the session preceding the current one — were elected by only 18 percent of the U.S. population.

    That figure hardly changed massively in last year’s midterms, after which the Republicans returned with 53 seats.

    One way or another, a majority of the American people are being denied any voice in selecting the justices to sit on the Supreme Court as a result of McConnell’s unscrupulous tactics.

    We are rapidly approaching the breaking point predicted by Axelrod.

    If that dark moment is to come, history will record that it was McConnell — not Trump — who broke apart the country.

    Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

  17. Debbo 2019-09-03

    Agreed Mike. Bloviating Bigot is simply a buffoon, a useful tool for Moscow Mitch, the real villain. If he is successful in his traitorous efforts, history will remember him as the hateful destroyer of a great nation.

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