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State Loses Again on Ballot Questions: Eighth Circuit Refuses Request to Stay Injunction of Paid-Circulator Registry and Badges

Governor Kristi Noem and the State of South Dakota have lost another battle in their war on your initiative and referendum rights. Three months ago, Noem and the state asked the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to stay Judge Lawrence Piersol’s injunction of 2020 Senate Bill 180, the Legislature’s latest version of its democracy-strangling registry and badging requirements for ballot question petition circulators. Since that June injunction, ballot question committees have been able to hire circulators and put them to work collecting signatures without having to get government permission or wear government-mandated badges.

(Conservative friends, this kind of big-government intrusion in core political speech and business activities should torque you off, but such big government is what you get from the South Dakota Republicans you blindly elect, so I must ask you conservatives, with enthusiasm ill-suited to parentheses, WTF?!)

The state’s request for a stay would have switched the rules on ballot question committees (of which at least three are actively petitioning right now) for the worse, forcing them to halt all paid petition circulating, collect a bunch of data, and jump through reinstated regulatory hoops for Secretary of State Steve Barnett, easily losing a week or more of valuable circulation time for each paid circulator. Such confusion and burden, of course, is exactly what our anti-democratic state officials want, since every circulator they can sideline is hundreds more voters whom they can prevent from signing petitions and putting measures on the 2022 ballot that might upset the Pierre Club’s hegemony.

But the Eighth Circuit said nuts to that! In a terse order issued yesterday, the Eighth Circuit told the State of South Dakota and their sneaky corporate-overlord amici at the South Dakota Biotech Association, “The motion for stay of injunction pending appeal is denied.”

Rick Weiland, founder of Dakotans for Health, the ballot question committee that beat SB 180 in Judge Piersol’s court, is pleased that his people can keep exercising their Constitutional rights without Secretary Barnett’s unjustified paperwork and bureaucracy:

We are thankful that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday rejected Governor Noem’s request to stop Judge Lawrence Piersol’s recent ruling that SB 180 is unconstitutional. The law would have required paid petition circulators to make public their personal contact information including home address and personal phone number, and disqualified voters’ signatures for circulators’ meaningless technical mistakes.

The Republican Party has been in overdrive since 2016, when the voters approved IM-22, the “Anticorruption, Campaign Finance and Ethics Reform Act,” enacting numerous laws to deny the will of the voters. We find it ironic that our one-party dominated legislature continues to ignore our state’s motto, “Under God, The People Rule” with continual legislative efforts like SB 180, to harm our constitutional right to collect signatures and advance public policy through the citizen initiative process, which has been part of our state’s constitution since 1898 [Rick Weiland, press release, Dakotans for Health, 2021.10.05].

Petitioners have 34 days to collect signatures for initiated amendment petitions before their submission deadline of November 8. Activists who launch petition drives to place new laws (statute, not constitutional amendment) on the 2022 general election ballot have until May 3, 2022 (pending the Noem/State appeal and request for stay of that ruling!), to collect voter signatures.


  1. Bob Newland 2021-10-05 19:46

    Looks like one more step toward Sharia Law to me.

  2. ArloBlundt 2021-10-05 20:31

    Well…the Governor and her minions seem to be about 0 for 14 in their various and sundry lawsuits. These suits, everything from Fireworks over Mr. Rushmore to slam banging the marijuana bill, to this effort to harpoon democracy could not stand up to judicial scrutiny. It isn’t that the Governor’s attorneys are inept, but that the premise of these lawsuits are deeply flawed. Judges are reognizing political baloney for what it is.

  3. Porter Lansing 2021-10-05 20:38

    A paid petition circulator empowers voters with the opportunity to officially state their personal positions.

    It matters not where the paid position circulator calls home, only who and how many they empower.

  4. ABC 2021-10-06 00:22

    There are 2 legislating bodies in South Dakota– the Republican Party (legislature) and the People (initiative and referendum).

    So in 2022, We the people can CRUSH the Tali-republic-bans with Defeating C (no 60% !) and expand Medicaid.

    Be a your own Governor! Vote ! Especially on Initiatives!

  5. Yvonne 2021-10-06 03:07

    To be publically silenced and humiliated themselves will only irritate them more, and so they anxiously wait for another opportunity, another way because it isn’t really about the initiative format itself, it’s about the voice of the people over riding their dictatorial authority.
    In their own debased minds, the oligarchs must maintain control and power.
    God is still in control, however, over all, whether one believes in a higher power or not!
    We are created with free will, with the ability to say yes and no, to make decisions that glorify or deny God…and in the end reap the consequences by each of those choices.

  6. Richard Schriever 2021-10-06 05:19

    Seriously – this is necessary to stop the SD Republican party from using our own tax dollars to attack and deny us our right to self-governance.

    Consent of the Governed Act:

    “Any initiated act or Constitutional Amendment passed by a direct vote of the people, shall not be nullified or altered or amended in any way by any means other to a direct vote of the people.”

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-06 07:05

    Arlo, good point that Noem’s losses are beyond mere ineptitude. She recruited private Sioux Falls lawyers to handle this appeal, and SD Biotech has Noem’s other lean mean boy-pal Matt McCaulley’s Redstone firm writing its briefs. Those lawyers aren’t the bumblers in Jason Ravnsborg’s office, but even they can’t polish the pig turds the SDGOP has tried to enact,

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-06 07:07

    Richard, that measure should be an amendment to ensure its overriding power, but if you’d like, you could submit that language as an initiated law to the LRC right now so that it is teed up and ready to circulate by January. It would be good to put a couple measures on the 2022 ballot that would directly challenge the SDGOP’s dictatorial drive.

  9. Yvonne 2021-10-06 08:19

    Right on Richard and CAH, push all the initiatives possible now. Will look to sign on to those petitions won’t we all free willing people whom desire to give power back to the people.
    Great work CAH!

  10. Donald Pay 2021-10-06 09:59

    Well, it’s not an unexpected decision given that the Supreme Court considers money as speech. To do what the Legislature and Noem and the special interests want with regard to paid petition circulation, you have overturn some Supreme Court decisions regarding “money as speech.” There are proposals in Congress to do that through a Constitutional Amendment. Better get on board with those. The state is wasting revenues passing these unconstitutional bills. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I sense a lot of insanity in South Dakota government.

    The Legislature could figure out a way to encourage non-paid circulation by grassroots South Dakotans, rather than paid circulation, but that certainly is not what they want to do. All of their “deform” efforts since the 1990s have centered around making it harder for grassroots South Dakotans to initiate laws. In doing that, they have forced South Dakotans toward the paid circulation route. The special interests and the Republian legislators have only themselves to blame. Perhaps the conservatives on the US Supreme Court share the blame.

    At any rate, I and others warned legislators that paid circulation was going to be the result of their efforts to restrict the initiative. We were right. If they want to reverse that trend, they need to go back to the system in place before they started screwing it up. That means repealing much of the upfront bureaucracy put on since the 1990s.

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