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Butte County Republican Activist Proposes Preventing South Dakotans from Voting to Legalize “Federally Band Substances”

Butte County Republican activist and welder Travis Ismay is thinking about putting an initiated measure on the 2024 ballot to keep federally banned substances off the ballot. A few weeks ago, Ismay submitted the following single-sentence amendment to the Legislative Research Council:

We will not allow the legalization of federally band substances on our ballot [Travis Ismay, proposed constitutional amendment, quoted by Reed Holwegner, LRC response, 2023.05.08].

Yes, Ismay wrote “band”. While I would enjoy exploring the possibility that Ismay is trying to prevent South Dakotans from ever voting on permitting material assistance to the United States Marine Band, let’s just assume Ismay trusted spellcheck and meant to write “banned”. Hey, it happens to all of us.

While I appreciate the effort of any citizen to craft a simple, straightforward initiative that achieves its desired purpose in a single sentence, Ismay does need to clarify his intent. The LRC identifies several problems in his wording:

  • Pronouns are bad if they don’t have antecedents. Who is “we” in this amendment? Who would do the not-allowing? On whose ballot will the legalization of federally banned substances not be allowed?
  • Future tense is strange and problematic. Ismay says “We will not allow…,” but he does not say when in the future we will start not-allowing (or stop allowing?) the thing he wants to not-allow. Is he expressing an intent to begin not-allowing when the amendment takes effect? Does he want to get around to not-allowing a few years later? Laws need to talk about present permission or prohibition—may or may not—not write into law the idea that we will permit or prohibit something later.
  • If Ismay intends to restrict the placement of certain measures on the ballot, he needs to frame his proposal as a constitutional amendment in order to check the mostly unchecked power reserved by the people in Article 3 Section 1 to place whatever measure they want on their ballot. (See? “Their” is o.k. there, because its antecedent is “the people”.)

On the good side, LRC says Ismay’s measure wouldn’t cost us anything and thus won’t need a fiscal note. That’s a relief; that’s one less thing Ismay would have to type up for his petition drive, and Ismay seems to have some trouble typing.

But on the really bad side, Ismay is contradicting the supreme authority of the people to rule. He’s even contradicting his own right wing’s adoration of states’ rights. Why would a good Republican want to deny his fellow South Dakotans the opportunity to place a measure on the ballot that would stick a finger—or a reefer—in the eye of an overbearing, overreaching federal government that will not allow the states to act as the laboratories of liberty that the Founding Fathers intended?

Stay tuned for Ismay’s rewrite—maybe he’ll cook up some clearer language to submit for the Attorney General’s review. And Travis, if you do write up a petition, call me for proofreading before you submit to the Secretary of State and start circulating! I would hate to see a petition fouled by typos.


  1. Donald Pay 2023-05-25

    I’m not sure whether this would win, even among conservative Republicans. The feds could ban Ivermectin or gunpowder or the precursor ingredients. A gun could be defined as a substance. What if Biden banned guns?

  2. Edwin Arndt 2023-05-25

    If Biden tried to ban guns, I truly fear there would be civil war.

  3. Donald Pay 2023-05-25

    Edwin, I doubt Biden would ban guns. Banning constitutional rights is more a conservative thing. DeSantis bans books, after all. It’s a slippery slope: after running over the 1st Amendment, the next one is the 2nd Amendment. Let that set in.

    We saw the “civil war” that erupted when Trump got tossed out of office by the voters. A bunch of middle aged white men with beer bellies and bear spray is not a “civil war.” It is an insurrection, and the serial crime wave that is Donald Trump will be paying for that insurrection as he tries to run for President again from a jail cell.

  4. larry kurtz 2023-05-25

    Why is it so hard for Republicans to spell, get syntax right and not capitalize words that aren’t proper nouns?

  5. Jet Johnson 2023-05-25

    Cannabis is not “band” at the Federal level. In fact, no drugs are “band,” really. Not recreational drugs. They’re simply regulated with strict protocols put in place on their procurement and usage. If cannabis is “band” at the Federal level, he should file a complaint about the Federal grow operation at the University of Mississippi.

    Mr. Ismay’s proposal would accomplish nothing. Not what he intends, anyway. Based on his Facebook, Mr. Ismay seems to be unnecessarily concerned with the use of cannabis.

  6. P. Aitch 2023-05-25

    🎶 Red Willow Band had some substances. 🎶

  7. Donald Pay 2023-05-25

    Larry, I like to capitalize WE, THE PEOPLE. It comes from the Constitution, but its meaning is as plain as “Power To the People.”

  8. larry kurtz 2023-05-25

    Smart politicians hire English majors as comms all the time for most of the right reasons but if you want to sell a product it’s always best to make sure they can pimp the merch, too.

  9. John 2023-05-25

    Oh, a mind is a terrible thing to waist.
    Pun intended.
    Rest assured that colleges have their place – despite whatever undereducated noem writes.

  10. Richard Schriever 2023-05-26

    larry – all that sckoolin stuff ain’t nuthin but libral indocternation!! It’s gotts stop. Bring them kids home so’s we can skool ’em propper in stuff like workin ans makin babies!! Buy God!!

  11. e platypus onion 2023-05-26

    Wasn’t discrimination banned based on race, religion sex, Gayness?

  12. larry kurtz 2023-05-28

    A cynical observer might suspect Mrs. Noem wants every South Dakotan to be like Mr. Ismay: unable to spell but able to spew hatred for change while pounding plowshares into swords.

  13. leslie 2023-05-31

    Edwin, is “truly fear” a threat from right wingers with prized guns and lots of ammunition for the range and stockpiled for “when the sheit hits the fan” as you folks like to say? I know these old guys, veterans, and rich, red neck kids w/multiple AR-15s who talk about civil war like you do. MADD went after drunk drivers. You don’t think American mothers, victims of mass shootings, are going to go after the unregulated gun industry?

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