Bill would create online ballot measure circulator directory

Published 02-27-2019

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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A South Dakota bill that would require people who collect signatures for ballot measure campaigns to be listed in an online directory is headed to the Senate floor.

The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 7-1 Wednesday in favor of the bill. It would direct the secretary of state to establish a directory of signature gatherers listing information including their addresses, phone numbers and occupations. It also would require circulators to wear badges issued by the secretary of state.

Republican Rep. Jon Hansen, the sponsor, said the bill seeks to address ballot question groups bringing in paid out-of-state circulators. GOP lawmakers during recent sessions have sought changes to the ballot measure system due to concerns about outside influence.

"Our initiative and referendum process is supposed to be a process that's by South Dakotans for South Dakotans," Hansen said.

The bill would require signature collectors to apply to the secretary of state and be listed in the public directory before gathering names for a ballot measure. If circulators provide false information, the signatures they gathered would be invalid. Collecting signatures without wearing a badge would be a misdemeanor.

Hansen was among attorneys who represented a group last year that filed a successful legal challenge to keep a measure off the ballot that would have capped the price state agencies could pay for prescription drugs. A judge barred it from going to voters after the opposition campaign, South Dakotans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue, challenged the validity of thousands of signatures.

There was no opposition testimony during the Wednesday committee hearing. House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, who voted against the bill on the chamber's floor, said he doesn't appreciate nonresident circulators coming to South Dakota to push out-of-state issues, but he thinks the bill would make it more difficult for grassroots campaigns.

"It hinders just your average, everyday local activists from being able to do the job that they should be able to do," Smith said.

De Knudson, who was part of an unsuccessful campaign to get a measure on last year's ballot that would have had the top two primary finishers advance to the general election, regardless of party, said she doesn't think the bill would affect her ability to find circulators. The requirements are basic, she said.

"I believe that some potential circulators may not be comfortable with all of these requirements, but I myself am fine w

There was no opposition testimony during the Wednesday committee hearing. House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, who voted against the bill on the chamber's floor, said he doesn't appreciate nonresident circulators coming to South Dakota to push out-of-state issues, but he thinks the bill would make it more difficult for grassroots campaigns.

"It hinders just your average, everyday local activists from being able to do the job that they should be able to do," Smith said.

De Knudson, who was part of an unsuccessful campaign to get a measure on last year's ballot that would have had the top two primary finishers advance to the general election, regardless of party, said she doesn't think the bill would affect her ability to find circulators. The requirements are basic, she said.

"I believe that some potential circulators may not be comfortable with all of these requirements, but I myself am fine with them," she said.

Last year, lawmakers approved measures requiring signature gatherers to provide more information to voters and the secretary of state. The bill would roll back those provisions in favor of the badge and online directory.

Voters in the 2018 election approved a ballot question barring individuals and interests outside South Dakota from contributing to citizens' initiatives.

De Knudson, who was part of an unsuccessful campaign to get a measure on last year's ballot that would have had the top two primary finishers advance to the general election, regardless of party, said she doesn't think the bill would affect her ability to find circulators. The requirements are basic, she said.

"I believe that some potential circulators may not be comfortable with all of these requirements, but I myself am fine with them," she said.

Last year, lawmakers approved measures requiring signature gatherers to provide more information to voters and the secretary of state. The bill would roll back those provisions in favor of the badge and online directory.

Voters in the 2018 election approved a ballot question barring individuals and interests outside South Dakota from contributing to citizens' initiatives.

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