The very sensible, pro-people-power Senate Bill 112 goes to Senate State Affairs Monday at 10 a.m. in Capitol Room 414. The bill would strike SDCL 2-1-1.4, which imposes the vague, unfair, intrusive, redundant, and time-wasting circulator affidavit on ballot question petition circulators and sponsors.
Just how much time does the circulator affidavit waste? Let’s do a time trial. As a ballot question sponsor and general friend to South Dakotans trying to figure out initiative and referendum paperwork, I’m pretty familiar with the circulator affidavit, so I’m able to fill one out without much review. A typical grassroots volunteer seeing the form for the first time might take a little longer, and ought to, to make sure everything is correct. What tasks must a circulator do to complete this one form, and how long do they take?
- Find and read the form again, get my driver’s license, look up my two past addresses and zip codes, pick out a document with my address (my 2019 Brown County property tax notice), and fill in all of that information: four minutes.
- Go downstairs, hook up the printer, print the affidavit and a copy of the property tax notice: four minutes.
- Fill out and sign the circulator’s sworn statement, apply notary seal and notary information: one and a half minutes.
- Fill out and sign the sponsor’s sworn statement, apply notary seal and notary information: one and a half minutes.
That’s eleven minutes for each circulator affidavit, and that’s not including time to proofread to make sure everything is correct. I’m not adding time to go find a notary, because we already do that with the petition sheets and sponsor’s final submitting affidavit, nor am I adding time for the circulator to send the affidavit to the sponsor, since we can assume most circulators will simply include the affidavit with their final petition sheets.
Multiply that eleven minutes by a team of 500 grassroots circulators, each of whom must submit a circulator affidavit, and that’s 5,500 minutes—nearly 92 working hours to complete a petition drive’s circulator affidavits.
The sponsor alone, with 500 circulator affidavits to sign and notarize, will have to spend 750 minutes—12.5 hours—with a notary signing and stamping. And that’s not work that can be divided up among volunteers: only the sponsor can sign the sponsor’s sworn statement before a notary, and every initiative and referendum circulated in 2019 had just one sponsor.
And what does over two people-workweeks of labor get the sponsor and circulators? Nothing. The statute that defines this affidavit, the statute SB 112 would repeal, says, “The information included in the affidavit are factors in determining residency but are not determinative.” Circulators and sponsors could go through all this work to meet the state’s unfairly reversed burden of proof, provide all this evidence to prove their residence and, hence, their innocence under South Dakota’s (unconstitutional!) circulator residency requirement, and still have crafty lawyers convince a judge that all that information we spent two weeks collecting and printing and swearing to (and at!) determines nothing, that our residence and innocence have not been sufficiently proven, and that our petitions are thus bogus.
Initiative and referendum petition circulators already provide their name and address under oath on every petition sheet, just like candidate petition circulators. Those circulator oaths are enough to ensure the integrity of the petition process. The circulator affidavit creates a ream of redundant paperwork with no legal weight. Senate Bill 112 wisely repeals this redundant paperwork and restores the clarity and simplicity to the initiative and referendum petition process.