Senator Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Lake Kampeska) couldn’t sell Amendment C in his own District 5 and Codington County. With all 15 precincts in Codington County swiftly counted and reported last night, the vote in Schoenbeck’s home county was 32.9% for his Amendment C and 67.1% against.
Even within Schoenbeck’s District 5, which includes the five “urban” Watertown precincts and two adjoining rural precincts in Codington County, Amendment C failed 32.7% to 67.3%. Republican District 5 voters still picked Schoenbeck over his primary challenger, Watertown city councilman Colin Paulsen, 58.7% to 41.3%. But Schoenbeck won 1,808 votes in District 5, while Amendment C won only 1,454 votes in District 5. Thus, at least 354 Watertown Republicans who voted to send Schoenbeck back to Pierre—almost 20%—voted against Schoenbeck’s signature legislation of his current term, his effort to weaken their voting rights with minority rule on fiscal ballot measures.
While 3,078 District 5 voters cast ballots in the Schoenbeck/Paulsen primary, 4,443 District 5 voters cast ballots on Amendment C. Thus, Schoenbeck’s ballot measure interested 1,365 more voters than his primary race. And that number who voted against C in District 5—2,989—was almost equal to the total who voted in the District 5 Senate primary.
Schoenbeck faces no general election challenger, so he doesn’t have to face a local electorate that widely rejects his view on ballot measures and majority rule. But if Schoenbeck did have to face all of the voters in November (and you know, an ambitious campaign could petition to form a new party, submit 3,392 signatures to the Secretary of State by July 1, and nominate a Green or Socialist or Populist candidate for District 5 Senate), he would have to explain why he’s so out of step with popular opinion on South Dakota’s long and august tradition of initiative and referendum.