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Amendment V: Open Nonpartisan Primary

Amendment V an open nonpartisan primary. Practically speaking, all candidates compete against each other on the same primary ballot, all voters can participate in the primary, and the general election becomes a run-off between the two candidates who get the most votes in the primary. Amendment V is sponsored by Democratic activists Rick Weiland and Drey Samuelson.

Key Provisions:

  1. Currently, candidates have must gather different numbers of signatures on their nominating petitions, depending on their party affiliation. Under Amendment V, all candidates must gather the same number of signatures to make the ballot.
  2. Amendment V places all candidates—Republican, Democrat, Independent, what have you—on one primary ballot, with no party affiliation next to their names.
  3. Amendment V allows all registered voters to vote in the primary, regardless of political party. All voters receive the same primary ballot and can vote for whichever candidate(s) they prefer.
  4. Under Amendment V, the top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election. In the case of a state House race or county commission race where more than one seat is being contested, the number of primary vote-getters advancing to the primary is twice the number of available seats.

Full Text: Amendment V, “An initiated amendment to the South Dakota Constitution establishing nonpartisan elections.”

Section 1 – That Article VII of the Constitution of South Dakota be amended by adding thereto NEW SECTIONS to read as follows:

§4 There is hereby established an open nonpartisan primary election, in which each candidate nominated for an office appears together on the same ballot. Neither the candidate’s party affiliation nor lack of party affiliation may appear on the primary or general election ballots in any election.

This section applies to the election of candidates for all federal, state and county elective offices except for the election of President and Vice President of the United States.

§5 An open nonpartisan primary election shall be conducted to select the candidates who shall compete in the general election. All registered voters may vote in the open nonpartisan primary election for any qualified candidate, provided that the voter is otherwise qualified to vote for the candidate for the office in question. The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary election shall compete in the general election. However, for any office to which more than one candidate is elected, the number of candidates who compete in the general election shall be the number of candidates to be elected times two.

§6 Each qualified voter is guaranteed the unrestricted right to vote for the qualified candidate of the voter’s choice in all elections. No voter may be denied the right to vote for the qualified candidate of the voter’s choice in a primary or general election based upon the voter’s party affiliation or lack of party affiliation.

§7 Each candidate running for an elective office shall file, with the appropriate elections officer, petitions containing the signatures of registered voters in an amount to be established by law. The signature requirements established shall be based on the total votes cast for that office in the previous general election and shall be the same for all candidates for that office, regardless of party affiliation or lack of party affiliation.

§8 Nothing in this article restricts the right of any person to join or organize into a political party or in any way restrict the right of private association of political party. Nothing in this article restricts a party’s right to contribute to, endorse, or otherwise support or oppose candidates for elective office. Each political party may establish such procedures as the party determines to elect party officers, endorse or support candidates, or otherwise participate in all elections. However, no such procedures may be paid for or subsidized using public funds. All qualified voters and candidates shall be treated equally by law and regulations governing elections regardless of party affiliation or lack of party affiliation. To the extent that any privileges or procedures are made available to any candidate or political party, such privileges and procedures shall be made equally available to all candidates or political parties, regardless of party affiliation or lack of party affiliation.

§9 The provisions of §§4 to 9, inclusive, of this article apply to all elections occurring after January 1, 2018, except for the election of President and Vice President of the United States, and shall supersede any existing law, regulation, and elections procedure to the extent that such are inconsistent with this article. The Legislature, Secretary of State and local officials shall make such changes in and additions to laws, regulations, and elections procedures as are necessary to fully implement the provisions of this article in time for the open primary election in 2018 and for each open primary and general election thereafter. Laws, regulations and elections procedures implementing this article shall permit and encourage all qualified voters in South Dakota to vote in primary and general elections for the candidates of the voter’s choice.

Read More:

  1. Sponsors’ website: South Dakotans for a Nonpartisan Democracy
  2. Stanford Adelstein, “Amendment V Gives Everyone a Vote,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.08.27.
  3. Dakota Free Press coverage of Amendment V