If you’re looking for a quick two weeks of work, the four committees circulating ballot question initiatives would be happy to put you to work. From today until November 8, you can make a little Christmas-shopping cash (and with coronavirus and the economic recovery still kinking the supply chain, you might want to get that shopping done before Thanksgiving) and serve the cause of democracy. You just need to be an 18-year-old South Dakota resident* who likes interacting with the public and who deeply respects the law, good public policy, and the right to vote.
You can talk to three of those potential employers at this afternoon’s Democracy Rally in Sioux Falls. According to the petition circulator handouts posted on the Secretary of State’s ballot question website, the two earliest entrants in the field, Dakotans for Health with its Medicaid expansion petition and Drawn Together SD with its anti-gerrymandering petition, are offering paid circulators $15 an hour. Latecomer South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, which waited until October 12 to start circulating its marijuana legalization initiative, is offering $22 an hour.
The marijuana industry has a product to sell, so apparently it can tap bigger cash reserves to pay 47% higher wages for its last-minute petition drive. No one stands to make money from independent redistricting, so that petition drive has to rely on the goodness of donors and circulators interested purely in better government.
Medicaid expansion could arouse the interest of some big-money players, like the medical-industrial complex that stands to benefit from more federal support for health care costs. But South Dakota’s hospitals have thrown their weight behind an alternative Medicaid expansion petition that they began circulating on July 2, and they are paying their circulators the same as Dakotans for Health, $15 an hour.
Circulating petitions isn’t easy work. You’re on your feet most of the time. You’ll probably be outdoors, and the extended forecast says Sioux Falls will see brisk 40s and 50s for the rest of this circulating season. You have to maintain a positive, outgoing, inviting attitude in the face of lots of rejection. (Even the best circulators with the best petitions will encounter a lot of people who simply don’t have time or the desire to be bothered by any stranger and who will walk on by without a word.) You have to know the petition well enough to answer questions, but you have to keep your answers short and sweet so you can get the voter’s signature and move on to your next potential signer. And you must know and follow the laws governing petitions without deviation.
Circulating requires a lot of effort, but so does democracy in general. Sign on to circulate initiative petitions this week and next, and you can put some cash in your pocket, but more importantly, you can empower your neighbors to exercise their right to vote on important public policy at next year’s general election.