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Senate approves bill changing how South Dakota candidates are chosen

Brent Duerre

The South Dakota Senate narrowly advanced a bill changing the way candidates earn their party’s ticket in statewide elections.

Currently, Republicans and Democrats choose their candidates for several statewide offices – including governor and Congressional seats – through a party convention.

Senate Bill 40 changes it to a statewide primary vote.

Sen. Michael Diedrich is a proponent for the bill. The Rapid City Republican said the current voting system is failing the South Dakota public.

“South Dakota is one of only three states in the entire United States that selects their Attorney General or their Secretary of State by private party convention," Diedrich said. "All the others either don’t have them or they have an appointment process by the governor but predominantly they are selected through a primary an election primary. That is open and transparent. You don’t get any more open and transparent than that."

Sen. John Wiik opposed the bill. The Big Stone City Republican said SB 40 will further divide political parties instead of encouraging them to work together.

“Senators, I am asking you to defeat this bill and give us a chance to work together in both parties, in all parties, Independents too, why not. We have challenges we can work on together. There is a lot of work to be done, and Senators, I believe we can do it. But if Senate Bill 40 passes, we just find another major source of division,” said Wiik.

The bill was supported by the Senate in a narrow 18 to 16 vote. It now heads to the House.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.