South Dakota Open Primaries launched its initiative petition drive yesterday to place on the 2024 ballot its constitutional amendment to put all candidates for Congress, Governor, Legislature, and county offices on a single primary ballot. Surrounded by his cross-partisan team, Group leader and petition signer #1 Joe Kirby engaged in some unnecessary and unfounded both-sidesism:
Kirby said he hasn’t heard of any opposition to the Constitutional Amendment but said he could see opposition from the “radical sides of both parties” [Eric Mayer and Tom Hanson, “Getting Signatures for Top-Two Open Primaries in South Dakota,” KELO-TV, 2023.04.19].
- There is no radical side to the Democratic Party in South Dakota.
- If you want to argue there is a radical side to the Democratic Party in South Dakota, it most likely holes up in the safest Democratic Legislative district in the state, District 15 in central Sioux Falls, and their senior Representative, Democrat Linda Duba, was at the petition launch supporting the amendment:
Democrat Rep. Linda Duba was in attendance at the news conference. The Sioux Falls lawmaker said she is supporting South Dakota Open Primaries because it is the right thing to do. She said she’s not concerned if Democrat candidates would be left off November ballots with the top-two primary system.
“If we worry about that, then we’re worried about the wrong thing,” Duba said. “The more that you get people involved in the process, you can generate interest and hopefully you will generate people that will come out and run for office” [Mayer and Hanson, 2023.04.19].
Meanwhile, the South Dakota Republican Party spin blog is making clear its opposition to more opportunities to vote:
The measure’s main sponsor, Joe Kirby claims “he hasn’t heard of any opposition to the Constitutional Amendment but said he could see opposition from the “radical sides of both parties?”
Well, let’s try the State Republican Party Chairman John Wiik for one.. John Wiik campaigned to be chair of the SDGOP in part telling groups that the party fundraising needs to be robust “to fight off attempts to establish a “Jungle Primary” system in South Dakota.” That’s straight out of the Clay County GOP January minutes. Chairman Wiik is anything but the “radical” side of the party, which is a much different story than this group is claiming.
The State Republican Central Committee has had pretty strong words in opposition of other measures monkeying with the ballot system, and I suspect they will quickly let their opinions be known on this latest attempt to monkey with our ballots [Pat Powers, “Jungle Primary Proponents Start Circulating Petitions, Hiding Level of Opposition from GOP,” South Dakota War College, 2023.04.19].
Both-sidesism is both false and unfruitful. It downplays the role Democrats may play in promoting this initiative and discourages Democratic participation in the petition drive. And as we see from the SDGOP spin blog’s immediate response, it does nothing to win over the hidebound Republicans.
SD Open Primaries and anyone else who would like to change South Dakota’s constitution have until May 7, 2024, to collect 35,017 signatures from registered voters on their initiative petitions. That May deadline, a restoration of the petition deadline South Dakota used for decades until 2006, gives SD Open Primaries six more months to collect signatures than they had the last time they circulated a petition in 2017. That May deadline comes courtesy of a successful lawsuit waged by a Democrat who was once called “the most liberal man in South Dakota“.
No batch of Democratic radicals is going to launch an expensive “Don’t Sign the Line” campaign to keep Democrats from supporting the open-primary initiative. As yesterdays comments from Representative Duba and the SDGOP mouthpiece blog indicate, the most loyal Democrats are more likely to support the open-primary initiative, while the most loyal Republicans will fight tooth and nail against it.