Ballot questions

COMMENTARY
The South Dakota House of Representatives convenes on Feb. 5, 2024. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Here’s hoping better angels will prevail against mean-spirited legislative proposals

BY: - February 23, 2024

In South Dakota, we like to be good neighbors, helping when we can. We send nice people to the Legislature. So why is their legislation so hard on our low-income population? Legislators rejected good bills that could help, like expanding free and reduced price school lunch eligibility, eliminating the state sales tax on food, increasing […]

COMMENTARY
South Dakotans sign petitions at Yankton River Boat Days in August. (Courtesy of Dakotans for Health)

Regret signing that petition? Republicans are here to ‘help’

BY: - February 19, 2024

Ever since the South Dakota Legislature dismantled the voter-approved anti-corruption measure known as IM 22 in record time, lawmakers and the people who back initiated measures have been locked in a battle of the ballot box. Lawmakers try to throw up as many roadblocks to ballot access as they can while ballot measure backers are […]

Joe Kirby, head of South Dakota Open Primaries, signs a petition on April 19, 2023, in Sioux Falls that aims to allow all voters to cast a vote in the state's primary elections. Kirby is seated next to De Knudson of Sioux Falls, with Tom Dempster of Sioux Falls standing to her left. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Open primaries effort attracts big contributions from South Dakotans and Colorado group

BY: - February 18, 2024

An ongoing effort to create open primary elections received some big contributions from South Dakotans in 2023, and also received a little more than half of its donations from a Colorado-based political action committee funded in large part by a Georgia billionaire, according to recently filed campaign finance reports. “Our open primaries effort in South […]

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State, Minnehaha County agree to pay legal fees after separate First Amendment lawsuit losses

BY: - December 27, 2023

The state will pay the legal bills for a man who won a First Amendment case in federal court that centered on personalized license plates.  Earlier this month, the state of South Dakota agreed to a settlement with Lynn Hart, who had sued the state over its personalized license plate policy with the help of […]

People sign a petition to put a measure on the ballot in 2024 that would reinstate abortion rights in South Dakota. (Courtesy: Dakotans for Health)

Abortion rights groups don’t support ballot measure that aims to restore abortion access

BY: - December 6, 2023

Some South Dakota abortion rights groups do not support a potential ballot measure that aims to restore those rights. The groups say they have concerns about the measure’s language and the way it was drafted. “We are not telling people to donate, or volunteer,” said Samantha Chapman, advocacy manager for the American Civil Liberties Union […]

COMMENTARY
(Photo illustration by Getty Images)

It’s hard to get stoked about repealing medical marijuana

BY: - August 8, 2023

One feature of South Dakota’s citizen ballot initiative process is that it values effort over expertise. Consider the case of Travis Ismay. The Newell man would like the 2024 election to include a ballot initiative repealing the legality of the state’s medical marijuana program.  Ismay is full of praise for the Legislative Research Council and […]

David Leist of Columbus, left, a field organizer for Ohio Citizen Action, hands registered voter Richard Hall a flyer with information while canvassing against Ohio Issue 1 on July 25, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (Graham Stokes/Ohio Capital Journal)

Ohio voters are deciding if it’s too easy to pass ballot measures. Other states are watching.

BY: and - August 2, 2023

CLEVELAND — Ohioans over the last century have used the state’s ballot initiative process to pass constitutional amendments that raised the minimum wage, integrated the National Guard and removed the phrase “white male” from the constitution’s list of voter eligibility requirements. Now, lawmakers want to make it much tougher for an initiative to be approved. […]

COMMENTARY
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Brian Bengs speaks to supporters on Nov. 7, 2022, at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Amendment is clumsy way to keep Legislature from manhandling voter initiatives

BY: - July 16, 2023

South Dakota’s legislative process is haunted by the ghost of Initiated Measure 22. Endorsed by a little more than 51% of voters in 2016, the anti-corruption measure was quickly dismantled in the next legislative session. Since then, lawmakers have lived with a reputation for dismissing the will of the people. Derailing IM 22 has had […]

COMMENTARY
Legislators mingle on the House floor ahead of the governor's budget address on Dec. 6, 2022, at the Capitol in Pierre. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Legislative term limits punish success, rob voters of power

BY: - June 27, 2023

State Sen. Brent Hoffman would be pleased if, in the next election, voters would tell him that his days in the Legislature are numbered. Hoffman, a Republican from Sioux Falls, is the moving force behind an initiated constitutional amendment that would set term limits for state legislators at eight years in the House and eight […]

COMMENTARY
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Ballot petition efforts alive and well, despite the Legislature

BY: - May 15, 2023

Despite the attempts by some legislators to quash the will of the people, ballot petition drives in South Dakota seem to be thriving. Well before the next election in 2024, the secretary of state’s website already lists four measures that are circulating for petition signatures. These include constitutional amendments for open primaries, abortion rights and […]

Rep. Liz May, R-Kyle, on the floor of the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Pierre on Feb. 22, 2023. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

House passes bill requiring initiated amendments to get signatures from every district

BY: - February 22, 2023

PIERRE — The South Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would make it more difficult for citizens to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. A petition drive to force a vote on a constitutional amendment already requires signatures from registered voters equivalent to 10 percent of the votes cast in the […]

COMMENTARY
Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, testifies before the South Dakota House State Affairs Committee during the 2023 legislative session. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)

Lawmakers rightly kill anti-democracy bill for many of the wrong reasons

BY: - January 20, 2023

Sometimes lawmakers do the right thing, but for the wrong reasons. A case in point would be the defeat of House Joint Resolution 5001 early Friday morning by the House State Affairs Committee. HJR 5001, sponsored by Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, would require that backers of a defeated constitutional amendment wait one general election cycle […]