Last night I attended an informational meeting at the Watertown Event Center hosted by Dakota Sportsman Inc. and the South Dakota Wildlife Federation. The purpose of this meeting was to provide information to the public about the impact of the recent SD Supreme Court ruling regarding non-meandered waters. I attended and recorded the meeting for all to view. The two main speakers for the event were from GPF; which is good because a LOT of people want to hear from them as to why public access was cut off by them to over twenty lakes.
This meeting was hosted by two sportsmen groups, but speakers did mention landowner rights have to be balanced. I hope in the future to attend and record a similar event from a landowners group.
Here is the list of speakers and/or people who helped answer questions:
Tomorrow I should have the video uploaded for Day 2 of public testimony before the SD legislative interim committee on the Regulation of Non-Meandered Waters. The testimony from Day 1 can be viewed here.
This is just a test to ensure the upgrades I’ve been making to SoDakLiberty.com over the last week didn’t break my ability to actually blog. Actually, long story short, the upgrades did break my ability to blog for the last five days, but I think those problems are fixed now!
To the visitor there should be no noticeable difference from the old site. But, with these new upgrades in place I should now be able to implement some cool multimedia events in the future! Expect there to be more pictures and videos relating to South Dakota politics forthcoming!
After a few months off blogging will resume on SoDakLiberty.com. I appreciate all the messages I received asking if everything was OK. This break from blogging had to do with working massive hours at the office and trying to complete some sections for a book. Now that tax season is basically done I will have time for some blogging once again.
On that note…
Earlier this week I attended the Americans First, Task Force meeting featuring Clare Lopez speaking about refugees. Before the meeting I was able to take some pictures of the protesters of this event and record a video with the young man who organized the event. I will have that post up later today. Additionally I was able to record the event with Clare Lopez. I will share that as well later today so the community of Aberdeen can hear what she has to say.
Going forward I am likely to do only a post or two a week on SoDakLiberty. There simply isn’t enough time to keep up with the amount of posting I used to do. 2018 already has a couple of races lining up that might be interesting. Additionally some of the possible ballot questions deserve a lot of blog space.
One final note. I am currently running for school board in Aberdeen. If you live in the Aberdeen school district I would appreciate your vote in June. As the campaign moves along I will post more information about that on my campaign Facebook page.
PS. It feels odd, yet satisfying, to be blogging again!
For the last couple of years I have been trying to provide coverage of every legislative committee meeting, every legislative bill, plus anything else I think the voters of SD should know about. I am very happy with the way my blogging has been received while covering the South Dakota legislature. Now, I must put this blog on the back-burner as a new writing opportunity has arisen which will keep me quite busy for the next year. Between this new project and my other two businesses I simply won’t have time devote to the legislature.
SoDakLiberty will continue, and I will do the occasional post for political matters I find interesting. This most likely won’t happen more than once or twice per week. I also plan to record various public events and posting them for people to see. My biggest objective on this blog has always to get more information out to people; and I believe recording certain events and sharing them on this blog is a great medium for doing so. If anyone in the Aberdeen area has a politically related event they want recorded and shared online let me know. It doesn’t even matter if I agree with you politically, I will share the event so people can discuss issues and know what others in the community believe.
Believe it or not I will very much miss covering every aspect of the legislative session. I do plan on once again covering the SD legislature, but that won’t happen for the 2017 session and likely won’t happen for the 2018 session either. I want to thank the readers of this blog for their support and look forward to continuing to blog about South Dakota politics, even if it is greatly reduced from what it was.
Earlier today the SD Secretary of State Office sent out a press release stating 103,425 absentee ballots have been requested as of November 7 (today). That would not include the many people who will continue to do their early voting up until 5 pm this evening. It should also be noted this is in regards to the number of absentee ballots requested, and the actuall number of ballots cast will be somewhat smaller than that number.
The absentee ballots cast this year may end up blowing away the three previous presidential elections. Here is the numbers sent by the SOS office for absentee ballots cast in three previous presidential elections:
2008: 100,780 (All-Time high for Absentee Ballots Cast)
Until the actual ballots are counted it is hard with any certainty to state 2016 will beat the absentee ballots cast record set in 2008; but at this point it appears as if that may happen. It will be interesting to see if this increase in early voting has any impact on number of people actually voting on November 8.
Throughout the week I’ve been posting pictures and videos related to the Standing Rock standoff with Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota. Now I’m up to the last of my pictures to post. This time I am going to post some pictures of the hills around the Sacred Stone Camp. First there are some pictures of law enforcement vehicles deployed in the hills around the camp. Then I’ll have a few pictures of charred hills from the Saturday night grass fire on the hills west of the camp. Pictures can be clicked on to make them bigger.
These first pictures are of various hills around the Sacred Stone Camp with law enforcement deployed on them. I have received a lot of questions from people asking just how much of a presence there is from law enforcement. Well, I think these pictures at least give part of the answer.
And of course this picture looking north on the state highway shows just how many law enforcement vehicles are out there; including the vehicles which can be seen on the hill above.
Some of the water protectors I spoke with mentioned this particular hill is considered sacred ground. It really upsets some of the protesters to see law enforcement on top of the hill.
The picture below is just north of the picture from above. The large nest seen in the tree on the right is apparently an eagle nest. That’s not something you get to see every day.
These last few pictures are of the hills west of the camp. The night before I took these pictures there was a grass fire in these hills. This is directly on the other side of the state highway from the Sacred Stone Camp. I have yet to hear any confirmed report of how the fire started. Luckily for the inhabitants of the camp the wind was blowing in a direction that prevented the fire from going towards the camp. As I was approaching the camp Sunday morning I saw two helicopters in the area with large buckets. I am not sure if they were firefighters; they had left just as I was arriving.
This week I’ve been sharing pictures taken near the Sacred Stone Camp near Cannon Ball, ND. Just after taking pictures of the bridge north of the camp I witnessed a prayer circle. This prayer circle was held on the state highway between the camp and the bridge. Here are a few pictures of that prayer circle, along with some takeaways I kept in mind. The next post in this series will look at the bad side of the Standing Rock protests: the people on both sides who want violence.
This first picture shows the beginning of the prayer circle. It started with a small group, but grew as time went on.
The prayer circle progressed with various members of the circle giving their prayers for the water protectors. Some shared stories of what they have experienced and/or hoped would happen in the future.
As shown below, the prayer circle kept expanding as more people came to participate. One of the participants was an elder woman who happened to have been arrested last week. She shared her story of being arrested and made to lay on the cold ground for a long time. Also she shared how she was being kept away from her diabetic medicine for a long time. I would think people on both sides of this standoff could agree an elderly lady should have been allowed access to her medicine much sooner.
There was a lot of focus on being a water protector in this prayer circle. I spoke with someone after the circle who confirmed tribal leadership is trying hard to keep people at the camps focused on being water protectors and keeping activities peaceful. Prayer circles in particular allow many of the protesters to remain calm while also reinforcing their resolve to stop DAPL.
I will admit to being pretty agnostic on the whole Standing Rock standoff. On the one hand I am very sympathetic with the water protectors and what they are trying to stop; but on the other hand too many of the claims made by protesters have been proven either false or highly exaggerated. But I think if the water protectors can focus on peaceful protest methods, such as prayer circles, they can continue to gain support without risking the public backlash that could come from inciting more confrontational protest methods.
The prayer ended with what I believe was called the Women’s Warrior Song. Below is the video footage of this song being sung by the ladies organizing the prayer. The video is just over a minute long. It was very windy when I shot this video, as you will hear in the video.
Re-Engine Consulting out of Austin, TX, was clearly the winning proposal. The Executive Board approved for the LRC to use $145,960 from the Legislative Priority Pilot Program Contingency Fund “for the purpose of contracting for LEAN training and implementation in the bureau of telecommunications”. This will be important to keep an eye on, because any success gained here will likely be replicated in other state departments.
I still think the Executive Board should have looked at what the Board of Internal Control (BIC) is doing and decided if this LEAN project should have been coordinated with BIC. Yes I realize the new BIC has a different focus, but its scope is so large it actually encompasses programs such as LEAN. Either way perhaps BIT moving ahead with LEAN will alleviate many of the problems legislators have had with the technology department in Pierre (and I’ve heard of many problems in conversations with legislators).
As I’ve been going around speaking with groups over the last few weeks about the election, one of the top questions I get is whether voters have to vote in every race or ballot question. The simple and straightforward answer is no, you do not have to mark every section of the South Dakota ballot. When votes from a ballot are tallied only races or ballot questions that have a choice marked will be counted. Any race or ballot question that is left empty will simply be ignored on that ballot. With so many ballot questions this year, I expect many people will simply refrain from voting on many of those questions.
With ten ballot questions to choose from this year it might be hard for many people to decide on how to vote for each question. Even people who are researching the ten ballot questions are having problems deciding how they should vote. Leaving the blank empty is a valid option for people in that circumstance.
Another thing to keep in mind is that South Dakota does not allow write-in votes. Any write-ins will be ignored. However having a write-in on a ballot will not invalidate that whole ballot. Instead any other votes for candidates or ballot questions on that ballot will be tallied.
Finally, the third question I have been getting a lot has to do with ballot selfies. Taking pictures of a live ballot and sending it out on social media, such as Facebook, goes against South Dakota election law. The reason for this is because it could be seen as trying to influence voting or as someone being forced to prove they have voted. In the US we not only have the right to vote, but we also have the right not to vote if we choose not to. It is possible South Dakota’s ballot selfie law will be struck down as unconstitutional some day, which has been happening in other states.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Justice about Amendment V. Jeff Justice is the person behind the Jeff 4 Justice YouTube channel. Amendment V is on the South Dakota ballot this fall and aims to get all voters to participate in the primary election process by removing party labels and having one large primary followed by a top two general election. Justice happens to be from California, which has already implemented a system similar to that being proposed in South Dakota with Amendment V. To that end, Justice created a great video explaining why he believes South Dakota should vote down Amendment V. Justice drew upon experiences in California to make his case.
When I looked at Amendment V back in August I was a tentative yes, but that was a very weak yes. Actually even at that time I felt Amendment V would not do what proponents think it would do. Now after spending more time reading through Amendment V and speaking with Justice I am leaning towards a no vote on Amendment V. It really does seem that Amendment V could end up reducing voter choice in South Dakota; which is odd because we already have too many races with no choices.
I would urge anyone that wants to learn more about Amendment V to watch the Jeff 4 Justice video embedded below. The video is about twenty-five minutes long and is well worth watching.