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SDGOP Tries to Push Independent Knobe off District 25 Ballot on Residency Doubt

Earlier this month, the Sixth Circuit Court in Pierre reversed Secretary of State Steve Barnett’s rejection of Justyn Hauck’s nominating petition and ordered the Secretary to certify Hauck’s candidacy for District 13 House. The court evidently accepted the South Dakota Democratic Party’s very close reading of candidate residency and voter registration requirements. The court also cut Hauck slack for courthouse coronavirus confusion:

The Judge further determined that even if there was a requirement that Hauck be registered to vote in the district he sought to run in, his actions would constitute substantial compliance with such a requirement. The Judge recognized that Hauck’s voter registration had not been updated prior to signing his declaration only because of circumstances arising from an unprecedented public health crisis. Moreover, the South Dakota Legislature has made a policy decision that “the laws of this state pertaining to primary elections shall be liberally construed so that the real will of the voters may not be defeated by a mere technicality.” The Secretary of State’s decision was ultimately incompatible with that legislative mandate [South Dakota Democratic Party, press release, 2020.05.06].

The South Dakota Republican Party, along with Valley Springs District 25 voter and Republican precinct committeeman candidate Jeff Lloyd Shawd, Jr., is now going to test whether independent District 25 Senate candidate Rick Knobe’s residential history is a mere technicality or whether doubt about where he lives is enough to get a judge to throw the former radio man and Sioux Falls mayor off the November ballot. I received this court filing yesterday evening:

GOP Lawsuit re Rick Knobe-1
GOP Lawsuit re Rick Knobe-1
GOP Lawsuit re Rick Knobe-2
GOP Lawsuit re Rick Knobe-2
GOP Lawsuit re Rick Knobe-3
GOP Lawsuit re Rick Knobe-3
GOP Lawsuit re Rick Knobe-4
GOP Lawsuit re Rick Knobe-4

Note that the argument starts on the wrong foot, on page 2, incorrectly citing SDCL 12-7-6 as the source of the statutory criteria for determining voting residence. Judge, they meant SDCL 12-1-4.

Once we get to the right statutes, we find the argument, previewed back in April by the SDGOP’s spin blog, starts along the same lines as the argument that Secretary Barnett tried to use to keep Hauck off the ballot: Knobe signed his declaration of candidacy for District 25 Senate on April 13, but the state’s Voter Information Portal showed for days after that that Knobe was still registered in District 9.

However, it seems odd that, if Knobe indeed had not been registered in District 25 on April 13, Secretary Barnett did not give him the same heave-ho that he gave Hauck earlier in April. Perhaps Secretary Barnett held his fire pending the outcome of Hauck’s lawsuit… and it’s a good thing he did, since evidently the Sixth Circuit doesn’t believe residency and voter registration are tightly bound together.

But the Republican plaintiffs have more to go on than the voter registration info to which the Secretary of State’s investigatory scope is limited. The Republicans argue that Knobe still owns property in west Sioux Falls, out of District 25, and lists his candidacy address at the Retreat at Pointer’s Ridge, which is owned and inhabited by Knobe petition circulator Peter Klebanoff and Peter’s wife Deb.

On face, this brief fails to make its case. The evidence presented does not prove where Knobe actually resided, by statutory definition, when he signed his declaration of candidacy. Neither owning property in another town nor sharing an address with unrelated people disproves one’s residency. Last I heard, District 5 Senator Lee Schoenbeck owns property out in District 31; are Republicans going to sue to remove him from the District 5 ballot? Some 6,300 RVers have registered to vote at the same address in Box Elder; is the Republican Party ready to go to court and argue their residency is invalid?

Republicans will have to present more evidence to prove that Knobe is trying to pull a Heinemeyerian fast one by renting a cot in Baltic to establish voting residency in District 25 while maintaining actual residence in District 9. If they can dig up that evidence (watch for stake-outs at the driveways at Pointer’s Ridge and on West 15th!), they’ll have a better case than Secretary Barnett against Hauck, whose physical residency was not in question and whose delayed registration change was a mere technicality complicated by courthouse coronavirus measures. But the court will not throw out the legally expressed will of District 25 voters on the basis of the GOP’s so-far circumstantial evidence.

11 Comments

  1. Jeff Barth 2020-05-29

    Any publicity can be good publicity for a candidate for office. Unless you are Kris Langer, drunk on the job and lying about it.
    This attempt to silence and sideline Rick Knobe can only raise his profile and help.

  2. Michael Wyland 2020-05-29

    These tussles remind me of when I ran for the Sioux Falls School Board in 1999 (yes – a LONG time ago!). One of my opponents was registered to vote in both Minnehaha County and Lyman County. He hadn’t voted in Minnehaha County since at least 1995 (voter registration records had four years’ history). He lived in Sioux Falls and owned land in Lyman County, he said. He voted in Lyman County because there were local issues there that he felt were important, he said.

    He was mad at me when I pointed out he hadn’t voted in the previous four years and somehow expected me to do the additional due diligence to discover that he was voting in another county! Seriously, it didn’t occur to me that having current voter registrations in multiple counties in South Dakota was even possible.

    I understand that, since 1999, the state has improved the coordination of county voter registration databases so that all counties’ voter rolls are tracked and dual/multiple registrations can be identified.

  3. South DaCola 2020-05-29

    I’ve been to Hunter’s point. There are several cabins that can be lived in as a permanent residence. One guy who helped clean up the place lived out there for several years. Knobe may not own the residence, but he is living there.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-05-29

    Wow—registered to vote in two counties? That’s a crime! And owning land does not satisfy the definition of voting residence. We did away with property ownership as a criterion for voting rights a long time ago, I thought.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-05-29

    Knobe should leverage this publicity and raise holy heck about the SDGOP’s effort to protect their drunk-on-the-job Senator from a challenge at the polls.

  6. Debbo 2020-05-29

    South DaCola, you know for a fact that Knobe is living there?

  7. Jeff Barth 2020-05-29

    Debbo-
    That is his legal address.
    I know a state senator from Sioux Falls who lived with her boyfriend in Tea for years nobody cared.
    Her legal address was he father’s basement. There was a senator who rented an apartment in a different district than he resided is. It worked for him.
    That is Rick’s legal address.
    Nuff said.

  8. grudznick 2020-05-29

    Mr. Barth, are you meaning that young woman who’s daddy served at the same time as she, insaner than most?

  9. Jeff Barth 2020-05-30

    grudz,
    yes

  10. Scott Ehrisman 2020-05-30

    Jeff, you forgot to mention that in her last year in the legislature she was living out of state with her husband.

  11. Moses6 2020-05-31

    I have met Rick Knobe , he is a good man I hope he is elected, and wins.Then I hope he runs for Governor and beats Kristi Noem we need some one who is smart in the Governors chair who reaches out to all people not just some.

Comments are closed.