Senate Bill 69 has been introduced by the Senate Committee on State Affairs “to revise certain provisions regarding elections and election provisions.”
One of the biggest effects this bill will have if passed is that it will move the campaign season for everyone back to Late November/Early December of 2015. That’s 2015 as this year, as it pushes the petitioning start date into the year preceding the election year. The proposed language states in part:
Section 5. That § 12-6-8 be amended to read as follows:
12-6-8. No person may sign the nominating petition of a candidate before January first in the year in which the election is to be held December first of the year preceding the election, nor for whom the person is not entitled to vote, nor for a political candidate of a party of which the person is not a member, nor of more than the number of candidates required to be nominated for the same office.
And the petitions have to be returned to the Secretary of State the last Tuesday in February (which would be 2/23/2016).
In actuality, it’s only a shift backwards of about thirty days. But psychologically, it’s a bit more striking.
It means that candidates are going to have to decide to run this year, before they prepare themselves to head back to Pierre for the legislative session. It means that political parties are going to be recruiting candidates for office in the run up to, and through the 2015 Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season.
It means that statewide candidates are going to miss out on collecting many signatures during the traditional late winter/early spring political dinner season, when many of them got it done. Because the first Lincoln Day Dinner will now come late in the process.
In other words, candidates are going to have to be on the ball in getting things done.
This has been a move long in coming, given the tremendously tight deadlines largely driven by federal requirements of when to have ballots completed in time for military voting. According to the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) act, the MOVE Act requires States to send absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters at least 45 days before Federal elections.
So, those ballots have to be set in stone 45 days out under federal law.
Current law didn’t really allow for any significant time for challenges or fighting over ballot qualification. Those ballots were literally required to go to the printer within a couple of weeks of being filed. The proposed changes in law would give significantly more time to allow for challenges, but the cost is pushing the active campaign 2016 season back into 2015.
Other portions of Senate Bill 69 are more debatable, such as removing the registered mail remittance and requiring that petitions be submitted in person. I’d noted earlier that removing that section in law discriminates against people in the state based on geography, and how efficient (or random) the mail is coming in from rural areas. Registered mail has a clear, and documented chain of custody. First class mail? Not so much.
I’ve been kicking around South Dakota elections since 1988. And I will tell you that the removal of the registered mail portion of the proposal needs to be absolutely stricken, because if they don’t, there will be a lawsuit.
A registered and documented manner of remittance to the Secretary of State is an absolute necessity in a state as geographically diverse (and big) as ours. Inevitably, someone is going to mail petitions in, and they’re going to get caught up in the mail, and delayed to the point where they’re not on the ballot. Why would we get rid of a requirement of a clear and documented chain of custody?
Even some pieces of registered mail were a little pokey in the last few cycles. And given cutbacks and consolidations in the US Post Office, getting rid of it is kind of a slap to the rural communities that dot our countryside. Not to mention foolhardy.
What are your thoughts?