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An initiative to change South Dakota voting gains traction

A proposal to have South Dakota voting run on a top-two open primary system is gathering support.

If passed, every registered voter in the state would be able vote in the state primary, regardless of political party. Each candidate would be permitted to list their political affiliation, but they would all be on one ballot. The two candidates with the most votes would then advance to November’s election day.

Supporters say this system gives registered Independent voters the chance to vote in the state primary.

“It is about letting all voters' votes,” said Joe Kirby, a retired businessman from Sioux Falls. “We’ve got a system now that is very partisan and kind of divides us as a state and we end up with a lot of people not part of the political process. And we end up with things going on in Pierre that we don’t like seeing. So, if we broaden the base and give Independents the equal right to vote as Republicans and Democrats, I think we’ll all be better off in South Dakota.”

Kirby made those comments at a recent information meeting in Vermillion. Samantha O’Kelly also attended the meeting. She is a registered South Dakota constituent.

“I’m a registered Independent, and so this is just a really important to me because I don’t get to vote all the time in primaries on certain party lines,” said O’Kelly

Supporters are gathering signatures and hosting information meetings, like Vermillion’s, throughout the state. If they get enough signatures, voters would vote on the measure in the 2024 general election.

Zadya Abbott (she/her/hers) is a senior at the University of South Dakota studying Media and Journalism with a minor in Women and Gender Sexuality Studies. She is native to the southeastern corner of South Dakota. Zadya regards the journalism profession as one of noble service meant to objectively provide the public with information of interest.