Ballot questions in South Dakota need a simple majority to pass, but many legislators want a change: They’re asking voters to set a 60 percent threshold for some measures.
The target is anything on a ballot that imposes or increases taxes. The measure would also apply any time the state is spending more than $10 million.
Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, of Watertown, said it’s a defense against outside influence on ballot issues.
“This comes to us so we can have one more protection built into our election process if groups come – and it seems like these days they’re mostly not from here – and if they want to put a tax increase on our ballot, or they want to spend over 10 million dollars, they have to get a 60 percent vote,” Schoenbeck said.
Arguing against the bill, Democratic Sen. Reynold Nesiba, of Sioux Falls, said it stifles the democratic process.
“If there's any protections that need to be done today, it’s about protecting the rights of our citizens, of your constituents, to go out with an idea, to gather signatures and to put it on the ballot,” Nesiba said. “That’s what needs protections.”
The Legislature used a joint resolution – which doesn’t require the governor’s signature – to send the issue to the June 2022 primary election. That’s when voters will decide whether to establish the 60 percent threshold.
If voters approve it, it’ll take effect in the November 2022 general election. And that could affect another issue. There are petitions circulating now to expand the state’s Medicaid program. Since that would cost more than $10 million, it could require the 60 percent approval.
-Contact reporter Seth Tupper by email.