South Dakota Editorial RoundupWe don’t like the idea that a technicality might be used to disenfranchise people from their right to vote. That’s why we think the referendum should be allowed to proceed on South Dakota’s new smoking ban.
Sad that technicality can ruin people’s petition rights
We don’t like the idea that a technicality might be used to disenfranchise people from their right to vote. That’s why we think the referendum should be allowed to proceed on South Dakota’s new smoking ban.
Put yourself in the place of someone who signed one of the petitions seeking the referendum.
You met all of the requirements of state law.
The petition carrier met all of the requirements of state law.
But then a third party, the notary public, failed to correctly fulfill his or her responsibility.
The notary didn’t correctly and fully provide all of the required information about the notary’s commission when the petition carrier swore to the notary that all the laws were met in gathering the signatures.
Suddenly your signatures, and the signatures of everyone else on that petition sheet, don’t count.
The fact that notaries made mistakes is a major reason why Secretary of State Chris Nelson isn’t allowing the smoking-ban referendum on the 2010 ballot. The sides are fighting in circuit court, and whatever the outcome, the fight likely will go on to the state Supreme Court.
The fight pits the four businessmen who sponsored the referendum drive against Secretary of State Nelson. Trying to wedge in, on Nelson’s side, is the American Cancer Society and its South Dakota legislative director, who pushed for the ban against smoking in bars, casinos and restaurants with alcohol licenses, and who brought the notary technicality to Nelson’s attention.
Left unrepresented are the petition signers. They would have no idea whether their signatures might be on the petitions sheets that are in dispute.
That a notary’s mistake can nullify the constitutional right of a petition signer and a petition carrier seems absurd and wrong. Whether you support or oppose the smoking ban, no one should lose a constitutional right to the referendum through no fault of their own.
Aberdeen American News
Reconsider sentencing guidelines for embezzlement
There have been a number of high-profile embezzlement cases in South Dakota this year, and we’re sometimes puzzled by the results of pleas and convictions.
A Salem woman named Kathy Gourley stole as much as $579,000 from the Sioux Empire Fair when she worked there, which practically killed the 80-year-old institution. Yet when she was sentenced, the judge said one of her problems was that she was so “generous” as she gave away some of the money to other families and put her daughter through school.
What? Stealing more than a half million dollars doesn’t seem at all like a “generous” act.
Now, Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth says people who received gifts from Gourley should return them. Was that ever a question? Isn’t the second person guilty of receiving stolen property?
In another case, a Day County woman named Sherry Markel stole money from the Farmers Elevator Co. of Holmquist. Prosecutors say she took more than $400,000 over several years. Markel’s attorney says he estimates the amount was between $100,000 and $125,000.
Regardless, Markel apologized during her sentencing and was sentenced to prison. She will be eligible for parole after serving 15 months behind bars.
Doesn’t that seem a little light? A person steals somewhere between $100,000 and $400,000 and serves a little more than a year?
We’re not about to justify any crime, but football player Plaxico Burress just started a two-year prison sentence for shooting himself in the leg with an unlicensed gun. That’s nearly twice as long as a person who spent several years deliberately taking money that legitimately belonged to farmers and others who could probably have used it in Day County.
Perhaps these high-profile examples will cause the state legislature to reconsider the sentencing guidelines for cases of grand theft by embezzlement.
Madison Daily Leader