Dakotans for Health this afternoon submitted a petition with over 23,000 signatures to place on the November ballot an initiated measure to expand Medicaid in South Dakota.
(I work for Dakotans for Health. I was in the room counting petition sheets. I can confirm that number.)
Secretary of State Steve Barnett and his team will riffle through the more than 1,600 sheets constituting this initiative petition and sample 711 signatures. If our raw count is right, and if Secretary Barnett finds 525 of those sampled signatures valid (roughly a 74% validity rate), he’l calculate that the petition has the 16,961 valid signatures necessary to qualify this initiative for a statewide vote in November.
But the Dakotans for Health petition won’t get counted right away; South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (which has sponsored this blog for the past few months—how do I fall in with these people?) got there just a bit earlier with their initiative petition to legalize marijuana in South Dakota. In a Facebook video from the Rotunda steps in Pierre, SDBML leader Matthew Schweich says their team submitted 19,250 validated signatures*
, meaning they’ll need Secretary Barnett to find netter than 88% of their signatures valid to qualify.
*Update 17:13 CDT: Schweich contacts the blog to clarify that those six tubs of file folders contained far more than 19,250 signatures, perhaps somewhere in the mid-20Ks. 19,250 is the number of collected signatures that SDBML was able to validate amidst a rush of last-minute petition sheets. If the total signatures are 24,000, the marijuana petition could qualify for the November ballot with a validity rate of about 71%.
If both measures qualify, the marijuana measure will be Initiated Measure 27, and the Medicaid measure will be Initiated Measure 28. Those two measures would join Amendment D, the constitutional amendment to expand Medicaid, on the November ballot.
Worth noting: in 2015, the Secretary of State’s office was able to validate two referendum petitions of comparable size within 36 hours. However, I hear that some of the SOS staff is out training judges today, so Secretary Barnett won’t be able to tear into these two petitions at full strength today. The SOS also wasn’t running a statewide primary election during the swift 2015 petition validation. But with some elbow grease, the Secretary of State’s office could count, sample, and publish results in a week.
Also worth noting: today’s petition submissions wouldn’t have been possible if a certain blogger hadn’t gone to court against a certain inept Attorney General and convinced a judge that making citizens submit initiative petitions a full twelve months before the general election unconstitutionally burdens our freedom of speech. (Oh, yeah—maybe that’s how I fall in with these people.) Last August, Judge Charles Kornmann moved the initiative petition deadline from last November to May 3 (today! oh happy day!), giving Dakotans for Health, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, and tens of thousands of South Dakota voters six more months to say, “Hey! We want to have our say!” and put important policy measures on the 2022 ballot. The Eighth Circuit is still waiting to consider the state’s appeal of this victory for democracy, but with today’s submission, this lawsuit has already done South Dakotans some good. Thank you, voters, for putting those six months to good use!