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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at www.sdpb.org/statehouse

Bill Changes Petition Verification Process

A bill being considered in Pierre changes the way initiated measures and referendum petitions in South Dakota are verified.

Some critics say the change makes it easier for big moneyed interests to challenge a petition effort.  

Under current law–someone who wants to bring an issue before voters in a statewide election must gather the necessary signatures and then have the petitions checked and verified by the Secretary of States office.  Anyone wishing to challenge the petitions has 5 days to do so.

But a late session amendment to House Bill 1096 extends that period to 30 days.    Mark Anderson is with the South Dakota State Federation of Labor.  He says this bill gives the rich and powerful another chance to remove the public’s right to vote.  

“It’s going to make it easier for moneyed interests to challenge it.  You know you got instead of 5 days you have 30 days. And so they’ve got time to get copies of the petitions.  Sort through them all and do their own verifications.  Which I don’t know if that’s necessarily what we should be doing.  I think it should probably be the Secretary of State.  I think they’re quite capable, they know how to do it.  They have got a system and they can verify the signatures,” says Anderson.   

Anderson is critical of the timing of this amendment.  He says it’s being pushed through at the last minute without fair public notice and input.   One measure already on the ballot this November would increase the minimum wage.   

Republican State Senator Mark Kirkeby is a prime sponsor of the bill.  He tells lawmakers in the State Senate that House Bill 1096 only gives citizens more time to review petitions and make a challenge.  

The bill has passed the state House and Senate, both bodies must now work out the differences in the two separate versions.