Do we need more government to fix people’s screw-ups when they’re trying to fix government?

Bob Mercer was writing on-line today advocating for more government in the face of people wanting to change government:

Requiring circulators to register at a county auditor’s office or the secretary of state office before they start gathering signatures would be a safeguard.

The circulator could be asked for photo identification and proof of current residential address, and for the specific ballot measure or candidate, then sign a statement pledging to follow the petition laws.

In turn, the circulator would receive official certification.


The recent crimes committed by candidates Bosworth and Walker, and the ongoing controversies during this signature-gathering season for ballot measures, point to the need for steps to better preserve the integrity of our democratic system.

Read it here.

I’m not so sure I agree. The recent crimes committed by Bosworth and Walker were successfully investigated and prosecuted by Attorney General Marty Jackley.  So, what’s the argument supporting the need for more bureaucracy in the face of it? Just so we can go “Yay! We did something!

Do we really need a licensure board for petitioners?  Or, is what we really need a shift of responsibility?

When I was in the SOS office, concerns over problems in the election process came up then as well, as they had with Chris Nelson before us, Joyce Hazeltine before him, etc. The primary problem is the the Secretary of State’s office is not designed legally to be anything except a very administrative filing agency for the documents of government.

The only review authority it has over elections matter is very, very limited, and purely administrative in terms of determining the validity of signatures, and the timeliness of when things are filed.

Any concerns or questions go directly to the Attorney General. The problem is, white collar petition scofflaws rank pretty low when put up against rapists & murderers. But because of their extremely political nature, and potential impact of upcoming elections, they can’t be ignored.  EXCEPT, according to case law, when they’re the subject of an upcoming election. Then, they can only be addressed only after the election.

Not an enviable position for our state’s chief law enforcement officer.   So. why not shift responsibility slightly?

Why not give the Secretary of State more authority to reject – or better yet, refer petitions upon suspicion of impropriety?  And as opposed to the Board of Elections being a mostly useless appendage dealing with administrative matters and suggesting legislation, why not give them a quasi-judicial function?  Let them sit in judgement on whether to reject or accept petitions and candidate controversies, and leave the bad, bad stuff to the AG?

Or is there a better way? What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Do we need more government to fix people’s screw-ups when they’re trying to fix government?”

  1. I’m not saying it is a totally bad idea. I wonder about an appeals process. would this expose the SOS to more legal action for petitions accepted or rejected.

  2. Might be easier to simply require circulators to be registered voters. That way some proof of their residence is already provided, plus they actually are participants in the SD political process and not some outsider.

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