Judge orders reprinting of state's ballot question pamphlet
A circuit court judge ordered Secretary of State Jason Gant to place an opposing statement on a proposed constitutional amendment in an election guide.
State Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, asked Judge Mark Barnett to issue a ruling ordering Gant to include the statement that Adelstein had written. After a one-hour hearing Friday afternoon in Pierre, Barnett did just that.
"The secretary did not comply with the law," Barnett said while issuing a bench ruling on the case.
Adelstein filed a request Wednesday for a writ of mandamus in Hughes County Circuit Court. He said opposing statements had to be placed on the ballot pamphlet under state law.
He claimed South Dakota Codified Law 12-13-23 mandates such a statement be published. Gant said he sought opposing statements and was unable to find any for the four proposed amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot. There are pro statements for all four proposed amendments in the pamphlet.
There are eight questions on the Nov. 6 ballot, including four proposed constitutional amendments. Amendment P calls for a balanced state budget. Adelstein submitted an opposing statement on P to Gant last month, but it was after the pamphlets had been published.
Friday afternoon, Gant said he accepted the decision.
"I am satisfied with the ruling of the court today," he said in a release issued three hours after the hearing. "The court's ruling provides me the opportunity to publish more information to the voters of South Dakota. Hopefully, this additional information will assist South Dakotans in being more informed on the ballot questions on this year's ballot."
Gant said he began the process of publishing new pamphlets Friday. The PDF version has already been updated on sdsos.gov, he said, and the new version of the pamphlet will be printed "as soon as possible." It will cost his office about $6,500 to print 25,000 new Voter Information Guides, change his website and distribute the guides.
As of Friday, 17,369 South Dakotans had cast early ballots, according to Gant. The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election is Oct. 22.
Gant had said he sought opposing statements but could not find anyone willing to write one, so he felt he had adhered to state law.
"I was confident that the statutory requirements were fulfilled," he said in the release. "It is for this reason I was steadfast in my decision to ensure that the ballot question pamphlets were available to the public before absentee voting began on September 21st. With the implied deadline of September 21, reprinting the ballot question pamphlet was made possible with the court's approval."
He urged voters to study the issues before voting.
Judge Barnett, who served 12 years as South Dakota's attorney general before he was appointed to the bench, declined to answer most questions when contacted, but said Rapid City lawyer Patrick Duffy, who represented Adelstein, will write a draft order of his bench ruling.
That will then be provided to Gant and his lawyers to see if they choose to comment on it. Two state-appointed lawyers represented Gant in the hearing.
"I always like to win," Duffy said, "and two-on-one makes it even sweeter."
Adelstein testified during the civil court hearing and answered questions from all three lawyers and Judge Barnett. Gant declined to testify.
Adelstein renewed his call for Gant to be impeached or resign. He said Gant committed either a first-degree misdemeanor or a second-degree misdemeanor, depending on which South Dakota codified law is cited, by not including the opposing view.
"The senator would prefer that Gant resign rather than tying up the 2013 legislative session, which will have an unusual number of first-time members," Adelstein's news release stated.