A look at Referred Law 19, revising elections and election petitions

19368125As I continue to look at ballot questions in the 2016 South Dakota election it is time to look at the referred laws. Referred Law 19 is the first of two laws that had been passed during the 2015 legislative session and then referred to the voters via the petition process . Some opponents of RL 19 have called it the incumbent protection plaan. There really hasn’t been enough proponents of the referred law to find out how supporters would label RL 19 .

This post will look at some of the basics of RL 19. Of all the ballot questions I am least likely to blog about RL 19 as the election gets closer. I have blogged more than enough about the law RL 19 originates from and don’t expect any true push to get RL 19 passed into law.

Referred Law 19 started as SB 69 from the 2015 legislative session

RL 19 began as SB 69 (SoDakLiberty Posts) during the 2015 legislative session. SB 69 began as a proposal from Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, via the Board of Elections, to reform the election petition process. A big driver behind SB 69 was to allow more time for the petition challenge process; which had been an issue during the 2014 South Dakota election season. While SB 69 had some possible ballot access issues needing to be fixed, it was overall a good proposal and probably would have been good to be signed into law. That is until SB 69 was destroyed by the legislative process.

During the legislative process SB 69 was amendment during every step of the process. I have a long post looking at the downward spiral of SB 69 going through the committees and chamber floors. In the end the final version of SB 69 had very little to do with the original concept of cleaning up and streamlining the petition challenge process in South Dakota. I will look at some of the bad parts added to this bill later in this post.

After Governor Daugaard signed SB 69 into law there was a petition effort started by Cory Heidelberger of Dakota Free Press to refer this law to the voters. Heidelberger was able to collect enough petition signatures to referred the law to the voters. On June 29, 2015, Secretary Krebs officially validated the petitions and SB 69 became Referred Law 19. Being referred to the voters prevented SB 69 from becoming law and negatively impacting the 2016 election.

That was not the end of dealing with SB 69 for the legislature however. SB 69 had a sister bill SB 67 (SoDakLiberty Posts). The two bills were interconnected and dates from one bill would impact the other. HB 1033 (SoDakLiberty Posts) was passed during the 2016 legislative session to fix the issues caused by SB 69 not being passed into law. Another issue fixed by HB 1033 is to add the definitions for Independent Candidate and Independent Voters. That was in part to ensure the Democrats didn’t have to allow third parties to vote in their primary election. If RL 19 passes (which I doubt it will), the legislature will once again have to make adjustments during the 2017 session to realign with the text of what was passed in SB 69.

Finally it is worth noting a lawsuit has also come out of SB 69. Earlier I noted ballot access issues with SB 69. The Libertarian Party of SD and the Constitution Party of SD filed a lawsuit via the ACLU challenging the early deadline for newly formed political parties set forth in SB 69. SB 69 being referred to the voters has no impact upon that lawsuit. By bringing forth SB 69 the state had brought attention to the fact that the deadline for newly formed parties had already gotten too soon to comply with ballot access constitutional rights. SB 69 just took a bad ballot access statute and made it worse.

Text of Referred Law 19

RL 19 is too long to copy into this post. The best place to read the text of RL 19 is actually on the LRC website where the final version of SB 69 as passed into law resides. The AG’s explanation in the next section has a brief overview of some of the changes within RL 19.

AG’s Explanation

The Attorney General’s office has provided this explanation for RL 19:

Title:  An Act to revise State laws regarding elections and election petitions


Currently, primary election candidates for certain offices must circulate and submit nominating petitions between January 1 and the last Tuesday in March. Referred Law 19 changes that timeframe to between December 1 and the first Tuesday in March. The referred law also changes other election-related submission deadlines, adjusting them from the last Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in March.

Certain election-related documents, including nominating petitions, are currently considered timely submitted if sent by registered mail before the deadline. The referred law changes this to require that these documents be received by the submission deadline. It also changes the method for calculating the number of signatures required on nominating petitions for certain elective offices.

The referred law prohibits a person registered with a recognized political party from signing an independent candidate’s nominating petition. The current law does not contain that prohibition.

Under the referred law, an independent governor candidate cannot appear on the ballot if corresponding lieutenant governor candidate withdraws and a replacement is not certified by the second Tuesday in August. It also restricts the circumstances under which a political party may replace a candidate who has withdrawn from consideration after the primary election.

A vote “Yes” is for revising State laws regarding elections and election petitions.

A vote “No” is against the referred law.

Pros of Referred Law 19

This is one of the few ballot questions post I can’t really write a pro section for (and that annoys me because I try to be balanced). Originally SB 69 contained a lot of changes worth supporting. But those pros were either changed or drowned out by the many bad additions made by the legislature. I will be quite surprised if any group comes forth to actually support RL 19 being passed into law.

Cons of Referred Law 19

I think the cons of RL 19 were mostly covered in this post by looking at the history of the bill. But here is a quick bullet point list of what are probably the worse parts of RL19

  • RL 19 imposes an earlier petition deadline for newly-formed parties. The current deadline is already likely unconstitutional.
  • RL 19 takes away the ability for candidates to send their petitions to Pierre via registered mail and be considered on time. This will negatively impact candidates in remote areas of the state.
  • RL 19 will increase the amount of signatures needed for many candidates who are part of a recognized party, making it even harder to get people on the ballot.
  • RL 19 prevents voters from signing petitions for independent candidates if they have a political party on their voter registration form. This of course would make it much harder for independent candidates to get on the ballot.
  • RL 19 makes candidates withdrawing their name after the primary to get a doctor’s note. This was aimed at stopping Democrat placeholder candidates. Ironically there are two Republican candidates that could not have withdrawn during the 2016 election season if SB 69 had not been referred to the voters.

Basically RL 19 would make it harder for candidates not a part of a major political party to get on the ballot. It looks like an attempt by a party that enjoys a super-majority in Pierre to keep power for years to come.

My initial thoughts of how to vote

Referred Law 19 is a definite NO vote for me. As I’ve stated a few times in this post, I don’t foresee any groups coming forth to support RL 19. It is a textbook example of how legislation sometimes gets absolutely destroyed by the legislative process. Hopefully RL 19 gets soundly defeated this fall. That will allow Secretary Krebs and the Board of Elections to come back with cleaner bill during the 2017 or 2018 legislative session. Hopefully by then the legislature will have learned from the mistakes made in the handling of SB 69.