New voting rules studied for stateLegislators looking at variety of changes to S. Dakota election laws.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Six pieces of legislation that affect the conduct of elections in South Dakota, including some substantial reforms and changes, have received final approval or are still moving through the Legislature in the 2013 session.
• Notaries: Candidates wouldn’t be allowed to notarize their own nomination petitions in any manner.
HB 1018 was proposed by state Board of Elections. It follows controversies in 2010 over actions by several candidates including Rep. Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City. Approved by House 66-2, awaiting Senate debate.
• Partisan judges: South Dakota’s ban against political parties endorsing or nominating judicial candidates would be repealed.
HB 1072 was requested by state Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson in the wake of a federal court ruling against a similar Montana law. Approved by House 66-0 and by Senate 29-2, now awaiting governor’s decision.
• Secondary election: Since this feature became law there’s never been a state election where the top vote-getter didn’t receive at least the minimum 35 percent to avoid a secondary election three weeks later.
HB 1170 would change the date of the secondary election to 10 weeks later and was needed by the secretary of state for South Dakota to comply with the federal requirements for military and overseas voting. It was sponsored by two Rapid City Republicans, Rep. Blaine Campbell and Sen. Mark Kirkeby.
Secretary of State Jason Gant didn’t introduce any election legislation this year, after he got crossways last year with the state Board of Elections, and worked through legislators instead this year. Approved by House 68-1 and by Senate 33-0, now heading to governor for decision.
• Deadbeat campaigns: Candidates for election couldn’t be certified unless they or their treasurer had paid all of their penalties if they had failed to file their campaign reports in a timely manner.
They also would need to be up to date on the reports. Gant favors this reform.
A group of Republicans sponsored HB 1209, with Rep. Kristin Conzet of Rapid City as the prime sponsor. No legislator voted against it.
After winning approval by the House 68-0 and by the Senate 33-0, the measure is on its way to the governor for his decision.
• Voting twice: Voters wouldn’t be allowed to cast absentee ballots in person at the courthouse on Election Day.
The goal is to prevent someone from voting at the courthouse and then quickly going to the normal polling place to vote again. Voters who can’t get to a polling place could still receive absentee ballots by messenger on Election Day.
SB 130 is one of several bills that Kirkeby sponsored with the support of Gant. The change is expected to reduce Election Day pressure on election officials at the courthouses.
The Senate approved the bill 32-1 and the House 49-17. It’s now headed to the governor for his decision.
• Banning “robo-calls”: The original purpose of SB 200 was to require greater disclosure of independent expenditures by reducing the threshold from the present $1,000 to $100.
SB 200, sponsored by Kirkeby, was amended at the suggestion of House Democratic leader Bernie Hunhoff, of Yankton, to also impose new requirements on automated “robo-calls” made on behalf of candidates or ballot measures.
A live operator would have to ask the call’s recipient whether it was OK to play the recorded message and would have to tell the recipient the caller’s identity, the entity paying for the call and the caller’s phone number and email address.
The Senate approved the original version 35-0.
The House will vote on the new version with the Hunhoff amendment.
If the House passes that revised version, the bill heads back to the Senate for a decision whether to agree with the House version or send the bill to Senate-House negotiation.