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No New Initiatives Possible; 2024 Ballot May Include Up to Seven Citizen Proposals

We reach a momentous day in the world of direct democracy in South Dakota. December 1 is the day when the Republican Legislature has authorized the Legislative Research Council to ignore and effectively ashcan any citizen initiatives submitted for review until April, fifteen work days after the end of the Legislative Session. The theory is that the LRC will be so busy reviewing bills and doing other work for the legislators coming to Pierre January 9 that they just wouldn’t have time to read and helpfully comment on a handful of citizen proposals for the ballot. The 2024 Session ends March 25, so the LRC could sit on submitted initiative drafts until April 15. The Attorney General would then get 80 days to sit on initiatives while he cooks up titles and explanations and takes mostly useless public comment, and the Secretary of State would need a few more days to pull her head out of election-denying arse and approve the initiative petition for circulation.

Since the deadline for submitting signed initiative petitions is May 7, unless the LRC some special dispensation and whips out a review between Legislative bills this winter, no new initiative will have the time to get through the full review process and hit the streets in petition form before the May 7 deadline. Initiative sponsors have five more months and a week to circulate existing petitions, but they can’t cook up any new ideas to place on the 2024 ballot. Alas!

There will still be time for referendum petitions. If the 2024 Legislature passes any real stinkers, oppressed and objecting citizens may start circulating petitions to refer those stinky laws to a public vote after the Session ends. Citizens get 90 days to circulate referendum petitions; in the coming election year, referendum petitions must be submitted to the Secretary of State by June 24.

We can’t know how many referenda may be floated and placed on the ballot—again, that depends on the stinkiness of the 2024 Legislature and the gumption of the electorate. But with initiatives effectively cut off by the Legislature’s anti-democratic machinations, we can say that at most, we could have seven initiatives on 2024 ballot:

  1. An amendment to the South Dakota Constitution Establishing Top-Two Primary Elections.
  2. An initiated Amendment Establishing a Right to Abortion in the State Constitution.
  3. An Initiated Measure Prohibiting Taxes on Anything Sold for Human Consumption [Dakotans for Health also has an initiated amendment to this effect, but they are circulating only the initiated law petition].
  4. An Amendment to the South Dakota Constitution Revising Legislative Term Limits.
  5. An Amendment to the South Dakota Constitution Prohibiting the Legislature from Amending or Repealing Ballot Measures for Seven Years.
  6. An Initiated Measure Repealing South Dakota’s Medical Marijuana Program.
  7. An Initiated Measure Legalizing the Possession, Use, and Distribution of Marijuana.

The 2023 Legislature already placed one constitutional amendment on the ballot, Senator Erin Tobin’s 2023 Senate Joint Resolution 505, to gender-neutralize the pronouns and other language in the South Dakota Constitution. Legislators could surprise us and pile more amendments on the ballot during the upcoming Session.


  1. sx123 2023-12-01 13:27

    I’m not generally a fan of public initiatives on the ballot as they risk a ‘wolves and sheep voting on what’s for supper’ scenario and illustrate a potential ethical flaw of a pure democracy.

    But, we don’t have a balanced legislature so, I dunno. Pick yer poison.

  2. Arlo Blundt 2023-12-01 13:38

    Initiatives, especially those generated by citizen concern, are fine with me. It’s good to have citizens directly involved in our “representative” democracy to directly influence legislation. The Legislature in this state usually tinkers with initiatives after they’ve passed making them unrecognizable in their implementation. In general, our history is replete with initiatives that have failed at the ballot box. “Under God, the People Rule.” is still a good idea.

  3. Mike Zitterich 2023-12-01 14:52

    sx123, you are 100% correct, allowing voters to place initiatives on a public ballot is risky, but it is a right of the people to do so. I encourage citizens to be proactive, lobby each other to NOT sign petitions you do not support. I do not sign petitions that I do not support, and have been lobbying educating people against supporting the Abortion amendment.

    Needless to say, NO new initiative or resolutoin, or amendment goes into effect until July 1st, Thank God, the People of South Dakota are smart.

    This allows us 7 months to reconsider the initative, resolution, amendment by a) lobbying the legislature to repeal, change it, or create a new law; b) petition the court to provide us an opinion, recommendation, and assessment of the new law; or c) refer the initative, resolution, amendment back to a pubic vote of the voters asking them to kill it.

    The process I used in 2020 was to ask the Legislature to repeal Amendment A, which they elected to have the County of Pennington challenge it in the court. while I did ask the Legislature to also reconsider I.M 26 to repeal the Medical Marijuana bill. We accomplished the one, but failed on the second, although we were successful in slowing down the implementation of what became S.D.C.L 34-20G by using the entire time to adopt planning, zoning, and manner laws.

    Now, if we are successful, we will eventually repeal SDCL 34-20G this time around, and I feel the voters will agree with us.

  4. Donald Pay 2023-12-01 15:17


    The Legislature cannot close off the initiative process for any time, according to the South Dakota Constitution. Just because they have so effed up the initiative process with their unconstitutional bureaucracy does not mean citizens can’t bring initiatives during that period, Sorry, either hire more staff to deal with the minimally added workload or cut the up-front bureaucracy.

    This is based, first of all, on a bunch of baloney. We brought initiatives during that time period during the 1990s. We brought them to LRC to be drafted in bill form with the help of Rep. Linda Lea Viken. Our intent was to make sure we had the initiatives in correct form for both an initiative or a bill. That was the only way we had at the time to make sure the initiative would be written by the LRC, according to their specifications. Requiring LRC to have a hand in writing an initiative is a good idea, but using it as an excuse to pile on unnecessary bureaucracy as a means to violate the constitutional rights of citizens is abominable.

    The LRC staffer (Magadanz) worked on our initiatives, even though he had other legislators coming in with bills at the same time. He did a great job and it was done in a matter of days. Everyone who brings an initiative ought to understand that the time of LRC staff is crunched during session and it may take a couple more days to put it into proper order. The LRC staff can do it in the busiest part of the session. They can do it for the far fewer initiatives that would come in during that time frame, provided the ridiculous bureaucracy is donw away with.

  5. All Mammal 2023-12-01 15:37

    Mr. Zitterich- go on, man. Peace out already. I’m sure you have some freedom to restrict somewhere, some evangelizing to do, a kid to deny food, a woman to subjugate, or an insurrection rally to attend with some morbidly unattractive members of your “supreme race” incel buds. Your opinions no longer deserve respect and I just wanted you to know. I don’t feel like letting you slide anymore. So…Bye, Felicia.

  6. Donald Pay 2023-12-01 17:17

    I don’t understand on what basis Mike Z. is saying a law or constitutional amendment passed by an initiative is “risky.” Certainly it is no more risky than a law or amendment passed by the Legislature. It is generally much harder to pass an initiative than a bill, so the “risk,” whatever he means by “risk” would likely be less.

  7. Mark B 2023-12-01 17:35

    Mike Z. Your ‘We’ sounds a lot like when people “we’ disagree with use a lever of governance to legally alter ‘our’ laws. ‘We’ can undo it through powers ‘we’ only have.

    A vote is taken from all interested parties and the majority carries the decision. I just get so tired Mike, of you coming in here to lecture us like you have an inherited authority to do so.

    Just say what you mean, man. Out with it. You believe a certain group of americans has a more ‘valid’ opinion or vote than others. The ‘lesser’ folk get play votes at the kid table, and ‘rightful Americans’ can veto.

    Your WE language is so offensive. I think they call it… hmm.. let me think…SUPREMACY? Is that the word?

  8. Todd Epp 2023-12-01 20:28

    The Zit abides.

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