The Denver Post has an article published this morning that tells an all-too familiar tale that we’e talked about in South Dakota about the relative ease of getting measures placed on the ballot, creating an overstuffed ballot.
And contained therein, there’s an interesting notation about discussions to bring back a discussion over whether South Dakota needs to update our initiative and referendum process to keep from continuing to be a laboratory state for social engineers to try to play their craft:
Faced with the daunting battle to procure the necessary signatures, most citizen-led initiatives wither and die long before election day. Still, the relative ease — at least compared with other states — of bringing ideas directly to the electorate has once again raised the issue of how accessible the ballot should be and whether Colorado needs to tighten a procedure that some contend already caters only to well-heeled interests.
In all, Colorado could have as many as nine citizen initiatives on the ballot, with two having met the signature requirements and seven more still being reviewed. Voters will definitely be heard on the issues of the ColoradoCare universal health care initiative as Amendment 69, and the minimum wage, likely as Amendment 70.
Although Colorado traditionally has been active in the initiative process, and this could rank among the busier years, some states also have a robust ballot in the 2016 general election. California has 15 citizen initiatives to consider, plus another two through the referendum process. South Dakota has a total of 10 measures on the ballot, seven of them citizens’ initiatives.
Underhill notes that California sought to curb frivolous initiative efforts by imposing a $2,000 filing fee (Colorado has none). And from the NCSL’s annual Legislative Summit last week in Chicago, she said some South Dakota legislators are considering ways to make the process more stringent.
Bonus notation – the picture accompanying the article has Emmett Reistroffer turning in petitions for public marijuana consumption zones in Denver.
This discussion continues to come up, and isn’t going away anytime soon when you have outside groups such as out-of-state liberal think thanks pouring money into Slick Rick Weiland’s coffers to promote ballot measures on this years’ ballot, and others pouring cash in Steve Hildebrand’s attack on short term lending, among others.
It’s a problem that’s been long evident in South Dakota, and certainly one we’ve been covering as far back as JAIL for Judges. And there’s no easy answers. How do you address problems in South Dakota’s long tradition of initiative and referendum without infringing upon citizen rights?
Can you put up a no trespassing sign to out-of-staters? How exactly would you accomplish that?
Do you impose bans on money originating from out of state being spent on such measures, or place extended disclosure requirements on those funds? Do you increase the number of signatures required? Do you restrict signature collection by geography, to make sure there’s a proportional number of citizens calling for a measure, as opposed to people hitting Sioux Falls and Rapid City to throw something on the ballot?
Lots of questions, but few answers on what type of restrictions that South Dakotans would find palatable, or even desirable.