The only sign of progress in South Dakota’s election results is that South Dakotans chose to expand Medicaid. Overriding years of Legislative inaction rooted in the irrational and autorhinotomical dislike of the black President who signed Obamacare, over 56% of South Dakota voters approved Amendment D, which writes into the state constitution the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid benefits to folks making up to 138% of the federal poverty level.
Even that sensible choice by the voters comes dimmed with some disappointment. Nearly 44% of voters still ignored the clear evidence from all 38 states that have expanded Medicaid that the program works and instead swallowed the red-scare flim-flam of rich Republicans who either don’t understand that helping more people pay for healthcare is good for families, the workforce, and the economy or who just don’t want to help low-income people because it violates the principles of their Prosperity Gospel.
A win is a win, but this win would have been a loss had Senator Lee Schoenbeck, Representative Jon Hansen, and Americans for Prosperity had their way. Remember that those plutocrats tried last spring to raise the vote threshold for fiscal ballot measures to 60%. That effort failed at the June primary, when voters rejected Amendment C by a vote of 67% to 33%. That surprising rejection of a Republican proposal to rig elections against initiatives by the mostly Republican primary electorate suggested Amendment D was more popular than anyone had thought. But the nine-point peel-off from Amendment C’s nays to Amendment D’s ayes indicates that South Dakotans are more passionate about protecting their right to propose and enact laws at the ballot box than they are about expanding social services.
Amendment C failed in 65 of 66 counties. The only county that approved Amendment D, Douglas County, with the county seat of Armour, went hard against Amendment D, 32% for, 68% against. Douglas was one of 28 counties that rejected Medicaid expansion. The 37 counties where majorities voted for Amendment D included 15 of the 16 most populous counties in the state. The largest county to vote against Amendment D is Meade, county seat Sturgis, where the nays were 51%. (As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, Butte County remains too close to call, with 2 of 18 precincts still not counted.)
Voter-approved initiatives used to take effect the week after the election, as soon as the vote was officially canvassed. But in 2017, legislators delayed enactment of approved ballot measures until July 1, giving the Legislature an entire Session during which to meddle with the voters’ will. The Legislature can’t amend or repeal a Constitutional amendment, but they can certainly look for statutory ways to sabotage Medicaid expansion.
But the people have finally and officially spoken: they want to join the 38 other states that have seen Medicaid expansion save lives and help the economy.