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Amendment V Seeks To Establish Non-Partisan Primary Elections

Kent Osborne

In November, South Dakota voters will get the chance to decide whether or not to support a measure that would create a non-partisan primary system.

Supporters say it increases democracy, while opponents say it reduces transparency.

Amendment V is neither a Republican nor a Democrat backed issue. State Republicans decided to oppose the constitutional amendment at their state convention, and state Democrats neither support nor oppose the measure.

Amendment V would change the primary process in South Dakota, except for presidential primaries. All candidates would run on one ballot, and every registered voter in the state would vote in a single primary.

Regardless of party, the top two candidates who receive the most votes get to advance to the general election.

Chuck Parkinson, a life-long Republican, says Amendment V would give the state’s fastest growing registration demographic a voice.

“There are now 109,000 independent voters in the state and those voters are really disenfranchised. I see it as the fact that the essence of representative democracy is voter participation. And if those people cannot participate in that particular process, you’re losing the essence of democracy,” Parkinson says.

Parkinson cites candidates who run unopposed in the general election after winning their primary as an example.
Will Mortenson is a chair for the No On Amendment V group.

He says the group objects to Amendment V because it takes party labels off the ballot.

“There are a lot of bad things about partisanship, a lot of ugly things. And I think this year, as much as any year, you’ve seen evidence of that. But this really isn’t the solution to that. What this does is takes away information that voters need at the moment they need it the most. You can call it some sort of good government thing or call it whatever you want. But in the end, it’s really an anti-transparency measure in taking that away from the voters. And I hope that’s something the voters see and reject in the fall,” Mortenson says.

Amendment V is a change to the state constitution. So, Mortenson says the rule is harder to change back if the new process doesn’t work.