ACLU Sues SD Over Petition Deadline

Jun 15, 2015

ACLU leaders have filed a federal lawsuit over a new election deadline for third-party candidates. The lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota says an earlier date for new parties to get on the ballot violates Constitutional rights. The case is filed Libertarian Party of South Dakota versus Krebs.

South Dakota lawmakers approved a measure that sets the date a candidate must turn in signed petitions a month earlier than it used to be. In January Secretary of State Shantel Krebs explained to lawmakers that an earlier deadline offers more time for scrutiny. 

“That challenge timeframe in court doesn’t give you much window from, say, March 25th, for example, this last year. Your petitions were due by March 25th. We need to print those ballots by, say, April 5th. That’s a very short window for a citizen to be able to challenge a petition and the signatures thereon that petition in the court and have a court actually hear that,” Krebs says.

“But, you know, administrative inconvenience is never the basis for depriving people of constitutionally-protected rights,” ACLU legal counsel Laughlin McDonald says.

McDonald says the new deadline takes away almost the entire month of March for independent candidates to collect enough signatures to make it on the ballot.

“But now you have to do all of your petition-gathering during the winter months January and February, and it simply makes it much more difficult,” McDonald says. “And the courts have recognized that. That’s why they have invalidated these lengthy petition deadlines, because they say it makes it much more difficult and imposes burdens on these independent parties and new parties seeking to be recognized.”

McDonald cites cases in other courts in which judges strike down early deadlines. The ACLU lawyer says this federal lawsuit aims at protecting all aspects of the election process. He says that means advocating for third-party candidates…and for members of major parties who are dissatisfied with the nominees on the Republican or Democratic tickets.

Click here to review Senate Bill 69.