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HB 1116: Move SD Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday in March

Governor Kristi Noem can’t figure out her Next Big Thing for South Dakota, but Representative Drew Dennert has an idea: Super Tuesday!

The Aberdeen Republican has filed House Bill 1116, a measure that would move South Dakota’s Presidential primary from nearly last in the nation on the first Tuesday in June, by which time the Presidential nominations are usually mathematically foregone conclusions, to the first Tuesday in March. Other states are still jockeying for their primary dates, but in 2020, fourteen states held Super Tuesday Presidential primaries on March 3, dishing out 1,344 out of 3,979 Democratic delegates and 785 of the 2,550 Republican delegates. On June 2, South Dakota allotted its 16 Democratic delegates and 29 GOP delegates at the same time as seven other jurisdictions; the total allotment that day was 479 Democratic delegates and 300 Republican delegates.

HB 1116 would only move our Presidential primary; the primary for state and local offices would remain in June. We would thus have to haul ourselves to the polls twice: once in March (with a 40% chance of a wet blizzard somewhere in the state) to add our squeak to the Super Tuesday roar, and then again in June to vote for the offices where South Dakotans’ voices really matter. Big spender Dennert offers state funding for all the costs counties incur due to his special Presidential primary.

I generally oppose early elections because they pressure candidates to start campaigning earlier and may thus exclude candidates who might be moved to run for office by later events and government actions. But an early South Dakota Presidential primary would not trigger that disadvantage, as it would not affect the decision timeline for state and local candidates and as other states and the vicious competition for donors and airtime already press Presidential candidates like Kristi Noem to ignore their day jobs and barnstorm the country four years before the election. The debate over HB 1116 will thus center around the usual question: will the extra money we spend to stage an early primary give South Dakota any more influence over the nomination of Presidential candidates than the last time we toyed with early primaries, from 1998 through 1996. In 2007, then-Secretary of State Chris Nelson said an early primary in South Dakota only contributes to a broken election system:

Well, we’re not happy to be last, but we understand reality also. Our legislature looked at moving our primary up to early February, but we saw what other states were doing and realized that most of the rest of the pack was going to end up there and we were simply going to end up being another small state having a primary on the same date as a lot of larger states, and understood that we probably would not get the attention and the traffic that would be needed to warrant separating the presidential primary from our state primary and moving it up and having to deal with all the associated costs involved with that.

…But when we see, as you mentioned, perhaps 29 states on one particular day and a few primaries and caucuses prior to that – you know, I’m fairly convinced that the American public is going to realize that this process is broken [Secretary of State Chris Nelson, interview with Melissa Block, “South Dakota Lets Primaries Stand at June 3,” NPR, 2007.04.05].

Nelson said then he preferred to see a rotating regional primary process that would give each group of states a turn at casting the first Presidential primary votes. But a plan like that would take more than one bill from South Dakota. Hmmm… maybe Representative Dennert could bring that rotating regional primary up at the Article V Convention he and his radical Republican friends are so eager to hold.

HB 1116 awaits the attention of House State Affairs.

21 Comments

  1. Scott 2022-01-27 07:25

    SD had an early primary for a short period of time, if my memory is correct. I cannot remember when on the calendar the primary election was held.

  2. O 2022-01-27 08:25

    Primary dates are selected to draw as much attention to your state as possible. Putting small SD on SuperTuesday only serves to get our results lost in the shuffle. No candidate will spend time in SD if those resources are needed to compete in larger primaries on the same day.

  3. Guy 2022-01-27 08:51

    I could care less about moving the primary date for South Dakota. We do NOT… [Hey, Guy: if you don’t care about the topic posted, don’t comment, and don’t hijack threads to your preferred topic. —CAH]

  4. Steve Simons 2022-01-27 09:29

    South Dakota tried an early primary in the 1990’s. The idea then was to create an economic windfall like Iowa receives for being first. It was only done once as there was very little economic impact and just an expense to the state. This proposal is another example of legislators working hard to spend money.

  5. Donald Pay 2022-01-27 09:49

    The February primary did bring Hillary Clinton to Pierre, where she made quite an impression at the State Capitol. At that time there was a big dust up in Nebraska over the proposed Boyd County nuclear waste dump, just south of the border with South Dakota. Some South Dakotans, including me and Gov. Mickelson, were involved in opposing it. Arkansas was part of the Central States Compact, which had selected Boyd County as the site. I asked her about why her husband was pushing for that site, and she basically didn’t answer the question. I was a Gephardt supporter.

  6. Donald Pay 2022-01-27 10:18

    I recall that the idea behind the February primary was to draw candidates to South Dakota so they would better understand the state, our problems, have to address ag issues, etc. Sure, TV, radio and newspapers hoped to gain some revenue, as did the hotels. I don’t think the state thought they would get much revenue out of it, though.

  7. Mark Anderson 2022-01-27 10:57

    Hey its easy, just mail it in right? I pay my property taxes online, why not vote online?

  8. Guy 2022-01-27 11:05

    Mark, that’s the one thing I liked about living in Oregon: mail-in voting. The best voting system to reach the most Working Common Janes and Joes. Oregon does have one of the best vote by mail systems out there with no Integrity issues compared to some of the other states.

  9. Porter Lansing 2022-01-27 13:49

    If you’ve ever cast an absentee ballot and most of you have, you know mail in voting is better.
    – Once I drop my ballot in the mailbox, in my building’s lobby I get three emails from the county notifying me of (1) when the ballot reaches the post office (in case my mail carrier decided to toss it), (2) when it reaches the county voting headquarters, and (3) when it’s been opened and counted. –
    – Every voter’s ballot has an individual UPC code on the envelope.
    – Pretty darned fraud free and a legitimate paper ballot trail.
    – Republicans opposed the mail-in option (you can still vote in person or vote early at several sites) but after years of elections Republicans even admit mail-in voting favors neither party.
    – Just try and vote twice with mail-in ballots and you’ll hear a knock knock from the FBI.

  10. Donald Pay 2022-01-27 14:05

    Porter is right. We have mail-in absentee voting. You have to request it. I don’t get emails in Wisconsin, but I can go to a website and watch the process as it progresses through from them sending the ballot to me to when they receive my ballot back to when they run it through the optical scanner. We, too, have some sort of code on the outer envelope. The Repubs in Wisconsin didn’t like the provision that voters could say they are “permanently confined,” which would let them obtain a ballot without requesting it every election. It turned out the lead Republican candidate for governor last year declared herself “permanently confined.” So much for that being an issue.

    I prefer the election day excitement and going to the polls, but until covid is over, I’m going to avail myself of the absentee mail-in option. We also have drop boxes, which the Republicans do not like.

  11. Porter Lansing 2022-01-27 14:18

    I particularly like mail-in voting because I can use the internet search engine to research judges, up for continuation.
    Who knows one judge from another or what they stand for or how many complaints have been filed against them?

  12. cibvet 2022-01-27 14:47

    Moving to an early primary is just an attempt to appear to be relevant to other states when actually we are just a drag on blue state taxpayers.
    If the entire state became a large, deep sinkhole, perhaps most Americans would be able to find us on a map and the title “fly over state” would be apropos.

  13. John 2022-01-27 15:43

    Running (voting) with the pack is far preferable to being an irrelevant after-thought. The June primary is like a participation trophy.

  14. Mark Anderson 2022-01-27 16:35

    Well boys and girls, in my state where I’ve been voting by mail for five years, DeSantis has made it harder. I’m actually looking forward to voting in person and giving the watcher Republican some grief, after I vote of course. The school board is coming up and the bad candidate has been to a proud boy sponsored event so I GUESS I’ll vote against the mom for liberty girl. Life is always interesting.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-01-27 17:14

    Would mail-in voting reduce the cost of the primary? Perhaps, since a Presidential primary conducted separately from the main primary would involve a small race with just one vote to cast on each ballot, we could offer the early Presidential primary by mail-in voting only.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-01-27 17:17

    We tried the early primary once, didn’t get whatever juice we thought it would provide, and abandoned it. I wonder what the sponsors of this bill think has changed since that last experiment?

    Of course, Rep. Dennert was just a little bitty baby during the last early primary in 1996.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-01-27 17:21

    “Lost in the shuffle”… I wonder: if I’m a candidate for Legislature or for Congress facing a primary, would I prefer not to have the Presidential candidates on the June ballot with me? Did our state races get lost in the shuffle in 2008 when Clinton and Obama were fighting the most vigorous late-spring primary campaign I can recall here? Or rather have the Presidential candidates on the primary ballot to draw more voters, get more people paying attention, and increase the opportunity for some synergy with state and local races?

  18. Guy 2022-01-27 17:50

    Well Cory, mail-in voting works in Oregon, like I said earlier on this thread. And it would work for whether the primary was early or not. Frankly I don’t think an early primary makes a big bit of a difference. Keep the primary date the same. I think we need to go to an Open Primary like in Montana, where I originally grew up. Open primaries keep the political parties from having a stranglehold over the primaries.

  19. Bob Newland 2022-01-27 19:21

    Well, one thing has not changed. Rep. Dennert is still just an itty bitty baby.

  20. mike from iowa 2022-01-27 20:02

    Slightly OT, Texas banned sending ballot applications by mail so Texas magat Dan Cringeshaw, he of the black eyepatch, is sending them out by mail because, apparently, rules in Texass don’t apply to magats.

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