When I first saw Senate Bill 88 earlier this week there wasn’t much to it other that it changed the wording to include terminology like “himself or herself” instead of just “himself”. Though, I did get a chuckle out of it when I was thinking to myself, “I wonder which ‘her‘ they had in mind?”
Well, today the bill got a little more interesting as Secretary of State Gant gave testimony in front of the Senate State Affairs Committee in favor of strengthening the law to help eliminate voter fraud and bribery.
This last election highlighted the need for the legislature to take a hard look at our existing laws on voter bribery, to remove any ambiguities, and to strengthen the penalties. Making the law more clear should help better determine what activities are allowable, and which ones constitute a criminal act.
As South Dakota?s chief election official, I can assure you that we don’t need to be fighting the battle every election over whether having food at a political event is a violation and whether busing people to a polling place after feeding them is not. We needed clarity in our law, and we need certainty of action. We owe that duty to the voters of South Dakota.
Many of the comments on this site had hoped that the legislature would clarify this issue, and it looks like we may now be seeing that.
At today’s committee hearing, two amendments were added to the bill to give it some extra teeth.
The first outlaws offering food at an event that offers same day voting.
The second increases the current violation from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a Class 1 misdemeanor.
I think that this amended bill takes a nice step towards clarifying the issue. Candidates would still be allowed to hold “meet the candidate”-style events where they offer coffee and snacks, or even a meal. They just can’t encourage a person to vote that same day.