On Friday, lawmakers in South Dakota voted against a plan to put in the state constitution a rule that says failed ballot measures can’t be put on the ballot again.
The proposed change to the Constitution was turned down by the House State Affairs Committee, which Republicans control. Lawmakers said it was based on vague language and would be hard to carry out. One Republican criticized its interference with citizens’ ability to directly change laws in South Dakota, which was the first state to enshrine the ballot measure process.
The proposed change to the Constitution would have stopped rejected ballot initiatives from being put on the ballot in the next election. For the change to be made, it would have needed a majority vote at the next election.
The initiative was led by Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch, who introduced it after voters rejected a ballot proposition to legalize recreational marijuana last year. Proponents of marijuana legalization say they want to reintroduce the measure on the ballot in the next election.
After progressive measures, including Medicaid expansion and the legalization of medicinal marijuana, gained support from voters, the Republican-controlled Legislature moved to limit the ballot initiative process in recent years. Even among his fellow Republican legislators, though, Deutsch’s proposal had trouble gaining traction.
Due to the wording of the amendment, which aims to restrict ballot proposals that are “substantially identical” to earlier measures, opponents claimed it would lead to a plethora of litigation. Other opponents recommended caution when limiting a type of direct democracy and altering the state constitution.
Republican Representative Becky Drury stated, “I have concerns about what this does to election law. “This restricts people’s ability to take action.”
The legislature also considers Attorney General Marty Jackley’s plan to make it a crime for circulators of ballot petitions to lie.
According to Jackley, the plan would strengthen election rules by creating a criminal penalty. He cited a case from 2014 in which he tried to get a Republican senatorial candidate charged with perjury for falsifying her candidate nomination petitions. The state Supreme Court overturned the convictions.
Bills like Jackley’s, according to Rick Weiland, who founded a group that runs ballot measure campaigns, including one to include abortion rights in the state constitution, would have a “chilling impact” on those initiatives.