Will South Dakota have open primaries?

Currently, South Dakota primary elections are closed. A proposed constitutional amendment...
Currently, South Dakota primary elections are closed. A proposed constitutional amendment would change that.(MGN Online)
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 2:52 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - A group called South Dakota Open Primaries is advocating for the state to allow people to vote across party lines in primary elections.

The group submitted a proposed constitutional amendment Wednesday to have primary elections for federal, statewide, legislative, and county races be open to all South Dakota voters, regardless of their party affiliation.

In a release announcing the ballot measure, Joe Kirby, chairman of South Dakota Open Primaries, said “Under our current system, too many South Dakotans are excluded from the primary process. It’s time to let all voters vote.”

Currently, state law says that voters registered with a party may only vote in that party’s primary. However, the state allows political parties to decide if they want to permit unaffiliated voters to participate. The Republican Party does not allow other party members to vote in the primary. The Democratic Party allows independent and no party affiliation voters.

The proposed system would establish a top-two open primary system where all the candidates compete in a single primary open to all state registered voters. The two candidates with the most votes advance to the general election. Candidates would still have their party affiliation on the ballot.

To qualify the proposed amendment for the November 2024 election, the group will need to collect 35,017 valid South Dakota voter signatures by Nov. 5, 2023. Petitions can’t be circulated until South Dakota secretary of state approval is obtained.