State Republicans To Ask Voters About Ballot Question Hurdle Increase—Again

Feb 17, 2021


House lawmakers want voters to decide whether to increase the vote threshold for ballot referendums that increase taxes or fees. It would increase that threshold from a simple majority… up to 60 percent. 

 Critics say it’s a thinly veiled attack on the ballot initiative by the legislature. 

 When legislators vote to spend money it has to be approved by a two-thirds majority of members. Republican Representative Jon Hansen, of Dell Rapids, says that approach has made South Dakota’s fiscal situation the envy of other states. Hansen thinks South Dakota voters might want to hold themselves to that higher threshold on ballot questions. He says this will further commit the state to sound conservative principles. 

 “I think the people, generally, have a shared commitment to resistance to higher taxes and increased government growth,” Hansen says. “I think this will be readily understandable by the people and I think there will be broad support.” 

 House Republicans agree, but not everyone is convinced.  

 Drey Samuelson most recently worked on passing a ballot question that legalized recreational and medical marijuana. He has worked on various other government reform ballot questions in South Dakota.  

Samuelson says voters recently rejected a similar proposal. A 2018 measure to increase the constitutional amendment change threshold to 55 percent failed. 

“And that was the right decision,” Samuelson says. “Now, Representative Hansen wants to require a 60 percent majority to pass certain ballot measures. Why? What if voters want to expand Medicaid or remove some onerous tax. Voters shouldn’t have to clear some ridiculous supermajority in order for their will to be respected.” 

If approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, voters will weigh in on whether to increase the vote threshold in the 2022 midterm election. If approved by the voters, it would not go into practice until 2024.