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Group wants to ask voters for open primaries again

Kent Osborne

A group of election reformers are hoping to place a ballot question in 2024 that opens up the primary election to all voters.

Currently, the Republican primary election is open to only registered Republicans. Various constitutional officers are determined at party conventions.

Joe Kirby is a lifelong South Dakotan and chair of South Dakota Open Primaries, the group backing the proposal. He said initiative allows all voters to get involved.

“Currently, a lot of the voters are not part of the process. Anybody that’s an independent or unaffiliated voter doesn’t get to participate as much as I do as a Republican,” Kirby said. “It’s about fairness. This is a publicly funded election—the primary election. We just want to get everyone involved and change the motivation of public officials.”

Kirby said the proposal would result in more moderates getting elected to office.

If passed, the top two vote getters in a gubernatorial primary race would advance to the general election. That would apply to other races, like legislative and congressional races.

A ballot question was rejected in 2016. That question also removed party labels next to candidates.

If petition circulators gather enough signatures the question would appear on the 2024 ballot.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.