Senate committee defeats petition signature requirement bill

State Senators felt the effort would cause the state legal issues.
The South Dakota Deputy Secretary of State, Tom Deadrick, testifies against a bill that would...
The South Dakota Deputy Secretary of State, Tom Deadrick, testifies against a bill that would overhaul petition signature collection requirements in the state.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 6:58 AM MST
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PIERRE, S.D. - With a possible amendment on abortion looming in 2024, senators on the State Affairs committee balked at a proposal that would have made the petition collection process in South Dakota significantly more difficult.

HB 1200, carried by Rep. Liz May (R-Kyle), would have required petition collectors for constitutional amendments to get 1/35th of their signatures from each legislative district.

“This bill is basically going to include all the state of South Dakota, and we are going to do it through the process of using our 35 districts,” May explained.

Currently, those collecting petition signatures for proposed constitutional amendments can gather them from anywhere in the state.

And that’s the way a number of activists from prior ballot initiative campaigns indicated they would like to keep it Monday.

The Secretary of State’s office also testified against the bill, in part citing the cost.

“As we read the last sentence (of the bill), it says that at least 1/35th of the signatures for a constitutional amendment must come from each legislative district,” said Tom Deadrick, Deputy Secretary of State. “To us, that would turn this into 35 petitions, not one.”

All but one member of the committee agreed with the opposition, voting to kill the bill.

Sen. Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown) cited a recent lawsuit the state just lost regarding petition collection requirements.

“I suspect that if you made this so that 100 signatures had to come from each legislative district, to show that there was statewide interest in something that would impact everyone in the state, this may pass muster with the eighth circuit,” Schoenbeck said. “It clearly would not pass muster with the eighth circuit right now.”

A number of lawmakers on the committee indicated that if a different bill with the same goal came up in future legislative sessions, they might be more inclined to support it.