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Debate On The State’s Ballot Measure Process Begins

Lee Strubinger

A legislative task force that’s taking a closer look at registered voters’ ability to pass legislation is taking public testimony Wednesday morning.

Lawmakers set up the Initiative and Referendum task force last session… to take a closer look at the state’s ballot measure process.
Lawmakers who wanted the task force say outside groups are taking advantage of the state’s low signature requirement and cheap media market. During the last election, voters had to decide on 10 separate ballot measure questions.
Critics of the process say South Dakotan’s are suffering from ‘voter fatigue.’ Supporters say the high number of ballot questions is a result of one-party rule in the state.
Emily Wanless is an assistant professor at Augustana University. She has a Ph.D. in political science. She chairs the committee.
“It seems like there are a number of assumptions as to what this task force is motivated by and what it seeks to do," Wanless says. "The legislation surrounding the creation of this task force indicates to me that the net results of our efforts should be a thorough review of the policies, procedures and regulations surrounding the uses of initiatives and referendums and where needed, suggest any changes that might be warranted.”
South Dakota was the first state to allow its citizens to legislate by the ballot. According to the state’s Legislative Research Council, 18 other states have followed suit.
The Initiative and Referendum Task Force will meet again on July 19 in Pierre.