Ballot Measures, and the death rattle of Democrats in South Dakota.

Maybe I’m jaded, having gone through some of the goofiest measures on the ballot over the past couple of decades; Jury nullification. JAIL for Judges. IM 10 for open and clean government.. But after seeing this filing, I’m left wondering why people think we need MORE measures on the ballot?

Yes, it appears that yet another ballot measure is coming, based on the ballot question statement of organization filed this past week. Douglas Kronaizl, who was last seen trafficking with the Matt Varilek and Rick Weiland campaigns, filed a new ballot question organization whose primary interest is to “Amend the Constitution to broaden and protect the initiative and referendum process,” and whose statement of purpose & goals is to “enable voters to responsibly refer any laws passed by the legislature and limit legislative overreach…”


While a ballot measure has not shown it’s head yet, given the sponsor’s history with him, I’m guessing this is connected with the Rick Weiland political organization that sends out all the fundraising beg e-mails, which have claimed they’re going to be submitting a measure.

Although, there’s nothing here that talks about his proposed “anti-corruption/big money’ initiative.

(Update – Doug tells me that “while I helped out with the Weiland camp last summer, neither he nor his new organization have been involved with this measure.”   Now I’m really curious as to the “why.”)

South Dakota has been a pioneer in the initiative and referendum movement; to allow citizens the ability to directly propose and refer laws to a vote of the people. Various states have adopted the model, although in some the process has run wild.

Consider California, which has become the poster child for crazy initiatives, and whose most recent proposed initiated measure is the Sodomite Suppression Act, which advocates for the shooting of homosexuals:

Now to the opinion of one Huntington Beach lawyer who’s proposed an initiative that’s causing a stir in California. Officially, it is called the Sodomite Suppression Act, and it allows for gays and lesbians to, and this is a quote, “to be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.” It calls for killing people. The lawyer, Matthew McLaughlin, now needs more than 365,000 signatures to get his proposal on the ballot. And while it’s highly unlikely that will ever happen, it has raised questions about California’s referendum system.


SIEGEL: You said recently, speaking of this Sodomite Suppression Act, this is a nut job and an illegal proposition. I understand that we can’t prevent nut jobs, but if it were demonstrably illegal, wouldn’t there be some mechanism to keep it off the ballot?

AMAR: Well, there might be. What California law says is that the attorney general, a political elected official, cannot by herself exclude a measure from the signature-gathering process because we don’t trust elected political officials to make judgments about what is necessarily legal or not, especially in closed cases. But if she were to go to a court and ask a court to declare this proposal patently unconstitutional and could never go into effect even if enacted, the court might feel comfortable prohibiting it from going any farther. But we have a strong preference in California for judges making these determinations rather than elected political officials.

Read it here at NPR.

South Dakota is already viewed as one of the easiest states to get a measure on the ballot. Does anyone think we need to make it easier, as this organization is proposing?

Having abandoned it’s status as an organization that runs candidates for office several years ago, the only group who benefits from making the initiative process easier would be the South Dakota Democrat Party. Why do I think this? Well, they spend an inordinate amount of effort to place measures on the ballot that they are otherwise unable to get through the legislature as legislative proposals, due to more than anemic numbers.

But, does substituting ballot measures for party building represent good politics? Not really. If anything, its a quick feel-good fix for a long term problem of party identity.

They seem to think that going around the system to try to pass or protest measures is accomplishing something. But in the process, by ignoring their need to recruit and run candidates, they’re running off the cliff like a line of lemmings.

If Democrats are perceived as perennial losers who can’t win elections in this state (as they are), no one will want to be a Democrat, or run as a Democrat. Because no one wants to be on a perennially losing side.

Look at the example of Dale Hargens, House Democratic Minority Whip from 2003-2004, and House Minority Leader from 2005-2008. When he looked at running in 2014, it wasn’t as a Democrat:

Hargens was an interesting entry into the Republican primary because he is a legislator that already served for a number of years as  Democrat; and he was a Democrat Minority Whip and Democrat Minority Leader during that time.

Hargens said he felt the Democrat party moved away from him in its surge to the left. He said the Democrat Party had “Turned the lights out”.

Read that here.

A Democrat Legislative Leader who took a look at what his party had to offer, consigned to say that the “Democrat party moved away from him in its surge to the left,” and that they’d “turned the lights out.”

If that’s not a party identity problem, I don’t know what is!

The focus on ballot issues by Democrats does not represent political progress or the exercise of political muscle in South Dakota. It’s a continued ignorance of their basic root problems. And it represents is the death rattle of a political party that once used to be able to compete on a larger stage in the state.

14 thoughts on “Ballot Measures, and the death rattle of Democrats in South Dakota.”

  1. We have deliberative bodies for a reason. For well thought out legislation.

    What the dems want is mob rule. Emotional based legislation.

    The supreme court and the legislature should fix this mess.

    1. Yes! We should have a ballot measure to eliminate all ballot measures and go thru our elected officials in the legislature.

  2. I used to express my opinion on Madville how counter-productive their initiative efforts were to the long-term health and viability to the SD Democrat Party. After being accused of various nefarious motives, I’ve decided they can’t be saved from themselves.

  3. Mr. Powers and followers,
    How does giving the voters a direct say in lawmaking inconvenience you? I can think of several snarky responses to my own question but that wouldn’t lend much clarity.

    1. each legislative district elects one senator and two representatives to serve in pierre. by the state constitution, these people chosen by their constituents are charged with legislating and oversight of government. when they get it wrong a special mechanism provides for voters in the state to address it. taking that outside mechanism and greatly increasing its power to usurp the legislature is so so wrong. california is rightly cited as an example of why you don’t let that happen. was that enough elaboration?

  4. Mr. Lansing the big winners in IM’s are the advertising industry. Respect is usually given to legislation being discussed during session in respect to negative or positive broad based ads. Anyone can testify on any piece of legislation in every committee it is heard and every bill dropped is heard. The General Public is respected and heard. When it comes to most IM’s advertising the sky is the limit on truthful perception. California is a case in point of what happens when IM’s take over for legislative action. There about 6% of the total budget is up for discussion at every Assembly. The rest has been appropriated by IM’s. CA is not only broke , they are insolvent.

  5. Chicago and IL were handed similar defeats with regards to pension reforms. Tying the hands of government to take action in a crisis situation. Ballot initiatives have a purpose but abusing this will lead to a loss of this process. I was for them but my thoughts are being replaced with the more deliberate approach which is the legislature. Its easier to correct bad language or law. Democrats need to find a message not a puch line. Because right now, their a joke in this state with Welands Take it Back BS. Take it back from who, his party have had the presidency and the senate until this year. Another stupid slogan isn’t going to replace a vision and a platform that appeals to a state like SD.

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