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Smith Votes Pro-Choice 93%; Can That Score Draw More Voters Than Sutton 2018?

Remember how Billie Sutton lost the 2018 governor’s race to Kristi Noem by just 3.4 percentage points? How might Jamie Smith get 11,459 voters who sat out the 2018 contest to come to the polls for him this year and boot Kristi Noem from office?

Maybe by pointing out to all the angry women in South Dakota who’ve just had their right to control their pregnancies joyfully stripped away by the Trump Court and South Dakota’s trigger law that, unlike Sutton, Smith has consistently stood against anti-choice laws in the South Dakota Legislature.

In 2018, I noted that in his eight years in the Senate, Billie Sutton’s voting record on protecting women from governmental violations of their reproductive rights was atrocious. I found that, on twelve notable bills, Sutton voted to invade women’s privacy and make women’s decision for them ten times.

Smith has served three terms in the House since 2017, with his rookie term overlapping with Sutton’s final Senate term. On three notable abortion restrictions considered while they both served in Pierre, Sutton voted nay just once; Smith opposed all three. One of the measures on which Sutton supported by Smith opposed was 2018 Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, Senate Stace Nelson’s emphatic declaration that Roe v. Wade was an assault on the God-given right to life and implicit call to overturn that decision.

So head to head, Smith is three times better on reproductive rights than Sutton.

Looking at Smith’s full six years in the House, I find 23 bills LRC-tagged as relating to abortion. I consider 16 of them notable—i.e., offering a clear picture of candidates’ willingness to stand up for women’s reproductive rights—and print them in bold font.

Bill Title Pro-Choice Vote Smith Vote Notes
2017 HB 1101 increase the penalty for performing an abortion of an unborn child capable of feeling pain. nay nay increases penalty from C1 misdemeanor to C6 felony under 2016 SB 72 fetal pain bill
2017 SB 102 require that the name and telephone number of an organization fighting to end sex trafficking be given, in writing, to any woman seeking an abortion. nay aye lengthens paperwork; passed 33-0 in Senate, 66-1 House, Tieszen only nay
2018 SB 110 increase the penalty for performing an abortion of an unborn child capable of feeling pain. nay nay accuses Planned Parenthood of breaking the law by telling patients that “politicians” require them to recite mandatory anti-abortion propaganda
2018 SCR 3 Committing the Legislature and urging the Governor, the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General to secure the blessings of life and liberty for South Dakota’s posterity. nay nay calls Roe v. Wade an “assault” on the right to life of every “pre-born” child and says that right begins at conception
2019 HB 1177 provide an opportunity to view a sonogram and hear the child’s heartbeat prior to an abortion. nay nay passed; more delay, emotional interference, not medically indicated
2019 HB 1190 provide for certain reporting requirements related to abortions. nay nay passed; bureaucratic interference
2019 HB 1193 provide a criminal penalty for causing an abortion against a pregnant mother’s will. aye aye passed unanimously both chambers
2019 SB 6 revise certain provisions regarding sonogram and heart auscultation prior to an abortion. nay mandated sonogram and heart sound; radical Nelson bill, failed Senate HHS 2-5
2019 SB 72 provide for a form a physician must use to obtain consent to an abortion. nay nay Noem bill; more bureaucracy; more opportunity for DOH interference in medical procedure and patient privacy
2019 SB 85 revise the deadline for the Department of Health’s annual report regarding abortions. aye minor: changed reporting deadline from Nov 15 to July 1 for calendar year data
2020 HB 1225 restrict the use of funds for abortion. nay nay restrict grants to any entity that performs or counsels in favor of abortions or any affiliate thereof; tabled in House committee; Smith voted to table/kill
2020 HCR 6020 Denouncing the National Education Association’s recent policy to support “the fundamental right to abortion.” nay nay right-wing posturing
2020 SB 87 add information required to be provided to a woman receiving an abortion. nay withdrawn before cmte; added request to view aborted fetus to informed consent sign-off
2021 HB 1051 maintain the life of any child born alive. nay exc legislative interference, discourages performance of abortions, increases legal risk and uncertainty
2021 HB 1110 prohibit the performance of abortions due to Down syndrome and to provide a penalty therefor. nay aye Noem’s clever posing with Down syndrome kids; passed unanimously both chambers
2021 HB 1114 provide a definition of abortion. nay nay Hansen bill; defines fetus as “human being in uterus”
2021 HB 1130 establish requirements for the presentation of a written statement regarding the discontinuance of a drug-induced abortion. nay nay inserts more govt interference in medical practice
2021 HB 1161 update certain provisions regarding pregnancy help center consultations. nay withdrawn before cmte;
2021 SB 183 declare certain contract provisions regarding abortion as unenforceable and to provide a penalty therefor. nay nay Schoenbeck/Hansen lawyer tricks: allows AG to investigate any suspected abortion-related activity; hard vote!
2022 HB 1113 prohibit threats made with the intent to coerce an abortion and to provide a penalty therefor. aye aye right-wing posing; passed unanimously
2022 HB 1208 prohibit chemical abortion drugs and to provide a penalty therefor. nay nay Haugaard bill to ban abortion pills; killed in Senate HHS
2022 HB 1318 prohibit medical abortion by telemedicine and to increase the penalty for the unlicensed practice of medicine when performing a medical abortion. nay nay Noem bill; forces delays in use of mifepristone, travel for both doses
2022 HB 1326 reinstate the prohibition against certain acts causing the termination of an unborn human life, and to prescribe a penalty therefor. nay nay Haugaard bill: replaced trigger law w immediate ban, Class 5 felony unless to prevent death of woman; Smith voted to table/kill in House State Affairs

On those 16 notable bills, Smith missed one vote, on 2021 House Bill 1051, a posturing and redundant “born alive” bill. Smith succumbed to optics and voted aye just like everyone else in Pierre on 2021 HB 1110, Noem’s bulletproof photo opp ban on aborting fetuses with Down syndrome. On the remaining 14, Smith voted pro-choice, either casting a straight nay or voting to table (i.e., set aside without action, thus killing) bad bills.

On 15 actual votes, Smith got it right 14 times. Where Sutton rated 17% on my pro-choice counter, Smith rates 93%.

Smith will likely have the chance to boost his score before the election, as Kristi Noem and Legislative leaders plan to call a Special Session to enact even more restrictions on women’s reproductive rights. But I would suggest that a 93% pro-choice rating already offers women’s rights who might have shrugged at Billie Sutton’s candidacy in 2018 to fire up and turn out for Jamie Smith this November.

Related Recollections: When South Dakota Right to Life endorsed Kristi Noem over Billie Sutton, the Sutton campaign sounded miffed:

The Sutton campaign has had little to say publicly about the organization’s endorsement of Noem. When I contacted them for comment, Campaign Manager Suzanne Jones Pranger set this by email:

“Senator Sutton is pro-life. His voting record demonstrates that. And any claim otherwise is untrue.”

…There was clearly suspicion in the Sutton campaign over the new endorsement policy and the 2018 candidate survey by South Dakota Right to Life. That showed in a comment shared by Deutsch that came from MacKenzie Huber of the Sutton Campaign:

The comment said in part: “Because Right to Life has never before endorsed a gubernatorial candidate and we have word that Congresswoman Noem has already been invited to speak at your convention in September before the endorsement process has even been made, the campaign has decided not to fill out the survey. Sen. Sutton’s strong pro-life voting record is clear and evidenced by the multiple A ratings your organization has given Sen. Sutton over the years” [Kevin Woster, “Opposing Abortion: Sutton’s Style Gentle, Noem’s Anything But,” SDPB: On the Other Hand, 2018.09.10].

In response to yesterday’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, Jamie Smith offered no triangulation toward SDRTL. He stands firmly for keeping government out of women’s reproductive decisions:

Jamie Smith for Governor, press release, 2022.06.24.
Jamie Smith for Governor, press release, 2022.06.24.


  1. Lynne 2022-06-25 09:03

    I saw Jamie Smith at the Ramkota in Rapid City the other day. I said hi to him with a big smile on my face. He turned and started talking to some males.

  2. O 2022-06-25 09:47

    South Dakotans (and more and more of Americans in general) will not the issues when the issues are proposed in a vacuum(such as a ballot initiative), but will note party when that is denoted on the ballot. Furthermore, “owning the other side” has become increasingly more influential to political action. All that is to say that Smith’s stance on issues will be secondary to the “D” in front of his name on the ballot; furthermore, his stand on issues counter to the GOP platform (in this case Pro-life) will only be used as a wedge issue to reject him from the “R” tribal vote.

    The tribal nature of political parties has ended meaningful political discourse.

  3. R. Morrison 2022-06-25 10:55

    There is no need for Noem to hold a session about more abortion bans.It is a violation of the Human Rights law to force a woman to carry out an unwanted pregnancy. Actually pregnant women therefor who are denied a abortion medically or surgically can sue Noem.
    The ACLU is getting prepared to take Texas and several other states with similar abortion bans to court.
    So, maybe some women should start suing that whatever it is.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-25 12:24

    So, Lynne, does that interaction (about which I’d be glad to hear more) mean you’ll disregard Smith’s voting record and vote for Noem? Or not vote?

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-25 12:26

    What you say seems accurate, O, but can’t we play to that tribal nature on our side and rally women’s rights voters to come out more enthusiastically for Smith now than they may have for Sutton in 2018?

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-25 12:28

    Or is the problem that for every one pro-choice voter whom we add to the Smith column with his superior voting record, we lose two Republican Sutton voters who were willing to cross over for Sutton because he did not have a pro-choice voting record?

  7. larry kurtz 2022-06-25 13:26

    Bless his heart for even showing up because I still can’t think of a single South Dakota Democrat with a snowball’s chance in Zell of winning any statewide election let alone the governor’s race so after the delegates vote for Smith’s running mate maybe I’ll sent the campaign some money.

  8. All Mammal 2022-06-25 13:54

    Never being one to speak about this third rail controversy, avoiding it along with colonoscopies and confession because just like the two latter, it is not up to the SCOTUS, has nothing to do with my neighbors, and sure as heck has nothing to do with state legislatures or criminal investigators. Nobody has any business involving themselves inside any examination room at any doctor’s office without consent.

    It is debasing and futile to be forced to post up outside our federal courthouse building to make it stop. If the jerks in this country need someone to pick on so bad to feel they make a difference, go after child abusers. Take their rights away instead of always protecting and siding in their favor. Makes sense if they aren’t using their legal position of power to beat them; they are them. It is all one sick cult of devil worshippers. You don’t have to be aware you worship the devil to be a devil worshipper. The worst act against Go(o)d is to hurt kids. That is what the church had led for ages: devil. Worship. Wearing onion hats and speaking in tongues up in a pulpit: devil. Worship. Taking money from the poor and afraid? Having absolute power over the body of women?

    The devil’s biggest triumph wasn’t convincing the world he didn’t exist. Evil’s highest accomplishment was tricking people into thinking they are worshipping Go(o)d, while really worshipping him instead! Ha! Anti-Kristi possibly is aware of exactly what she worships, then again the ones fighting with the most fervent conviction are the ones tending to be the most dangerous to the innocent.

  9. Francis Schaffer 2022-06-25 13:57

    No Democrat will win in Zell.

  10. larry kurtz 2022-06-25 14:02

    Francis, who is your choice for Lieutenant Governor?

  11. Bob Newland 2022-06-25 14:05

    Lynne, I am as miffed as you are by Smith’s apparent inability to respond to well wishers. He treated me similarly.

  12. Francis Schaffer 2022-06-25 14:06

    If I had to choose I would pick VJ Smith nevermind he is a Republican.

  13. Donald Pay 2022-06-25 14:23

    Lynn and Bob, I understand being miffed. Obviously he’s not a good retail politician, but maybe he can improve. I tend to be less concerned about that, because it’s issues I care about. You can ignore me all you want, as long as you do the right thing.

    Still, he needs to hear your feedback in a constructive way, not in a public forum. Send him a short email about your (lack of) interaction with him, how, as a likely supporter you would have liked him to have responded. I know just from running for school board, you have to talk to folks, and it can eat up time you don’t have. Still you have to make that time, even if you end up saying the same thing over and over.

    The best retail politician I ever talked to was Dick Kneip. I was a 20-year-old volunteer when he ran the first time and he made me think I was going to be part of his administration.

  14. larry kurtz 2022-06-25 15:12

    Anyone else want to share favorites for Lieutenant Governor?

  15. cathy 2022-06-25 21:09

    Lt. governor….Randy Seiler.

  16. WillyNilly 2022-06-26 11:10

    Donald, I agree that Lynn should contact Smith with her issue. Too often we complain about something online or to friends and family while avoiding the one person who could actually benefit from hearing from us. If you are pleased with something or someone, let them know they have your support. If they have disappointed you, take the time to tell them and explain why. If you don’t say something, they won’t know.

    BTW… as an ordinary constituent you’ll only get form replies from Rounds and Thune. You’re more likely to get a genuine reply on an issue from Dusty’s office.

  17. Lynne 2022-06-26 12:05

    Corey, sorry for the delay. I would say that it makes me less likely to vote, and kills any thought of being an enthusiastic supporter. With my employment, which I respectfully decline to reveal, it is risky to be known as a supporter and this experience certainly made me much less willing to stick my head above the parapet, so to speak.

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