SB 69 is a bit of an omnibus bill regarding petition requirements, including a proposal to move the start of the petitioning process back to December 1 of the year preceding the election. I’m in favor of parts, oppose parts (specifically removing the Registered mail submission of petitions), and think the exercise is a worthwhile discussion to have.
One of the most notable things from this morning was the testimony against the bill by the ACLU lobbyist dujour, who will likely move on to other things within a year or so as most of their people do. But this moment’s ACLU Person, “Libby,” was there mainly to introduce their expert opponent and to present a bill amendment.
Their person, the writer of “Ballot Access News” spoke. And the bill amendment that the ACLU was supposed to have ready? They didn’t have it prepared. At all. Regardless, what the Ballot Access person spoke of was a desire by the ACLU to amend the law to allow new political parties to organize as late as June or July for inclusion on the fall ballot.
And it gets better.
The ACLU apparently wanted not just late statewide ballot access for new parties organizing as late as July, but they want to change the law to give them the ability to select local legislative candidates at convention. That was bad.
And it got worse. In later committee discussion, Democrat Senator Bernie Hunhoff suggested going even further.
The path that Senator Hunhoff started to explore in committee discussion on the bill was one that raised my eyebrows. Senator Hunhoff floated the concept of removing the concept of placeholder candidates – a tool Democrats are using in greater and greater numbers as time goes by in an attempt to fill gaps left by the lack of interest of people in running as Democrats – and instead allow the political parties to fill the empty ballot positions.
I almost had to do a double take, and internally asked, “Is he kidding?”
In effect, it would allow them to nearly forego the petition process entirely, and allow whoever is in charge of the disorganized mess at Democrat HQ in Sioux Falls to find a list of 105 people acceptably liberal, and anointed by party elders, to just be their candidates.
So, why is the Democrat party floating idea to move candidate picks to party HQ in Sioux Falls? I’m sure they’d like to pass laws that way too, but there are valid reasons we don’t. Really, how is a candidate finding 25 or 30 people to sign a petition to nominate them to run burdensome in the least? (Dems, it might typically be far fewer)
It would seem that the petitioning process is an incredibly nominal step, but an important one to ensure that the person running is there to represent the people of their district, as opposed to whoever from that zip code sent a donation into the Democratic party. It has the important step of broadening the representation the candidacy provides. Personally, (except for Lt. Gov) I’d like to see most of the constitutional level candidates have to circulate petitions too, but I might face opposition going that way as well.
So whether the suggestion comes from the ACLU, or State Democrats, any suggestion of stripping the petitioning requirement is something that South Dakotans should take a dim view of. And if gathering a few names is too large of a burden for some, then maybe they aren’t the kind of people anyone wants in a position of power.