• December 2018

Deconstructing the outcomes of the 2018 ballot measures

By Debra Owen
Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce

On November 6, South Dakota elected the first female governor, Kristi Noem, Congressman Dusty Johnson, 105 state legislators and many local officials. South Dakotans were also asked to weigh-in on five ballot measures, which proposed to change state law or the South Dakota Constitution.

Let's start by discussing how measures are placed on our ballot. South Dakota has the distinguished honor of being the first state to allow citizens to engage in direct democracy, which aligns with our state motto: "Under God the people rule." Citizens can both refer legislative laws to the ballot and directly initiate laws to be placed on the ballot. Both efforts require gathering a specific number of valid signatures and submitting those signatures to the Secretary of State. The legislature can also refer laws to the vote of the people. Of the five ballot measures on the November ballot, three were submitted to the Secretary of State through direct citizen engagement by gathering signatures: Amendment W, Initiated Measures 24 and 25. Two of the ballot measures, Amendment X and Z were placed on the ballot by the legislature.

Voters often express confusion and frustration about ballot measures. The actual law being considered can be lengthy and cover multiple subjects. Moreover, ballot measure campaigns often communicate with short, carefully crafted messages to sway the voters. These campaign messages fill our mailboxes and bombard us through television, radio and social media as election day draws closer. It can be daunting to sort through the noise.

The Chamber is a resource for our members, providing independent analysis on all the ballot measures. Through member engagement of the Issues Management Council and the leadership of the Board, we provide issue briefs for each ballot measure, which includes both the pro and con arguments. We also offer conversations on each ballot measure via our Advocate podcast and write extensively about each ballot measure through our Chamber Advocate weekly newsletter. Lastly, we communicate directly via email to inform our members about each measure which includes the Chamber's position to support, oppose or remain neutral.

Two of the five measures on the 2018 ballot passed and will take effect on July 1, 2019.

Amendment Z – Single Subject

Amendment Z states proposed amendments to the constitution may not embrace more than one subject. If more than one amendment is submitted at the same election, each amendment shall be so prepared and distinguished so that it can be voted upon separately. This "single subject" language idea is not new to South Dakota. The same language can be found in §21 of Article III of the South Dakota Constitution which requires the legislature to follow the same rule of one subject for legislation. In addition, earlier this year the legislature passed HB 1007 which requires any initiated measure to embrace only one subject. Now that Amendment Z has been approved, a change in law – whether statutory, initiated measure or constitutional amendment – must follow the single subject rule.

To recap, citizens and legislators can continue to submit or refer constitutional amendments to a statewide vote but after July 1, 2019 all submitted amendments must embrace a single subject. Amendment Z passed with a vote of 62 percent to 38 percent.

Initiated Measure 24 – Prohibition of out-of-state contributions for ballot committees

Initiated Measure 24 prohibits contributions to statewide ballot question committees by non-residents, by political committees organized outside South Dakota, and by any entity that is not filed as an entity with the Secretary of State for the four years prior to making a contribution. It requires the Secretary of State to impose a civil penalty on any ballot question committee that accepts a prohibited contribution. The civil penalty is double the amount of the contribution. The measure requires the Secretary of State to investigate alleged contribution violations prohibited by this measure. Currently, there are state laws regulating other kinds of election-related contributions, disclaimers and disclosures. Violations of these laws are classified as misdemeanors and are subject to criminal penalties. The measure allows a court to impose a civil penalty (up to $5,000 per violation) in addition to the criminal penalty. Under the measure, the Secretary of State must investigate alleged violations of these particular election-related laws. All civil penalties collected under this measure will be placed in the State general fund.

The Attorney General has stated this measure is likely to be challenged on constitutional grounds. Initiated Measure 24 passed with a vote of 56 percent to 44 percent.

South Dakota's long-standing tradition of our citizenry engaging in direct democracy will continue to be used by those who live here and by those who reside elsewhere but want to make changes to our laws. The Chamber will continue to provide independent analysis and insight on ballot measures for our membership. The Board will continue to take positions on proposed ballot measures, with the help of our Issues Management Council. This is a good thing because measures will continue to be placed on the ballot. The Secretary of State's office has already received five ballot measures that may potentially be on the 2020 ballot. There will be more, and your Chamber is watching and tracking that for you.

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