The Minnehaha County Courthouse in Sioux Falls, pictured on Nov. 1, 2022. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)
Dakotans for Health, a health care advocacy network and ballot question committee, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Minnehaha County officials over new restrictions on petition circulators.
The Minnehaha County Courthouse and Administration Building in Sioux Falls are popular locations for collecting signatures to place a measure on the ballot. County officials enacted new regulations on petition circulators last week, restricting them to two specific areas.
Dakotans for Health is currently gathering signatures for petitions focused on restoring abortion rights and eliminating the state sales tax on food. Initiated measures and referendums require about 17,500 signatures from registered voters, and initiated constitutional amendments require about 35,000 signatures.
“These new rules significantly impede our efforts,” said Rick Weiland, co-founder of Dakotans for Health. “What they have implemented is not only unconstitutional but also undermines direct democracy.”
The lawsuit contends the county’s policy restricts South Dakotans’ First Amendment rights by limiting the outdoor space available for political speech, with 99.3% of the previously accessible area now prohibited. It argues that the two rectangular areas established for petition circulators are inadequate.
Additionally, the lawsuit argues a requirement for all petition circulators and political speakers to pre-register infringes on the right to anonymous speech and exposes circulators and speakers to potential harassment.
The policy passed the Minnehaha County Commission 5-0.
Dakotans for Health is seeking orders from a federal judge to prevent the enforcement of the policy.
South Dakota Searchlight was unable to immediately reach Minnehaha County commissioners or the county auditor for comment.
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