South Dakota House approves moving up presidential primary

A measure to push the Rushmore State's once-every-four-years presidential primary vote to Super Tuesday -- instead of the dilatory June -- would become law should the bill pass.

Rep. Drew Dennert, R-Aberdeen, stands on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, to answer a question posed by Rep. Tim Goodwin, R-Rapid City, about Dennert's bill to move South Dakota's presidential primary up to Super Tuesday.
Christopher Vondracek / Forum News Service

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota's presidential primary would take place in the heat of campaign season on Super Tuesday, under a bill that passed through the House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 17.

The chamber voted on a 41-26 margin to support House Bill 1116, which would make the Rushmore State's once-every-four-years presidential primary for Democrats and Republicans on the "first Tuesday after the first Monday in March," also known as, Super Tuesday. It's the day day when the greatest number of states hold primary elections and caucuses.

"We aren't even giving our voters a voice," Rep. Drew Dennert, R-Aberdeen, the bill's prime sponsor, argued. He said by the state's current June primary, most presidential elections are effectively over. Moreover, he added, "It would bring presidential candidates here and bring a lot of attention to the state."

The move didn't reap immediate praise on the House floor.

Rep. Tim Goodwin, R-Rapid City, suggested moving the primary date — for presidential primaries only — to Super Tuesday would have the opposite effect, sidelining South Dakota beneath the glow of more populated state races.


"Why would we pick a date that has the most happening?" asked Goodwin.

Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, also opposed the move, saying the current schedule links legislative primaries with the presidential primary and draws out more voters.

"I believe we're shooting ourselves in the foot," said Hoffman.

But many in the chamber appeared to agree with Dennert's proposition. Rep. Scott Odenbach, R-Spearfish, recalled serving as Minnehaha County GOP chairman in 1996 when Republican candidates such as Bob Dole, Steve Forbes, and Lamar Alexander came to town.

He remembers Pat Buchanan speaking at the pig arena near Morrell's in Sioux Falls.

"It was a blast if you're into politics," said Odenbach. "It was just a great opportunity to showcase South Dakota to Republican candidates."

After successful passage, the bill now moves to the Senate.

Christopher Vondracek is the South Dakota correspondent for Forum News Service. Contact Vondracek at , or follow him on Twitter: @ChrisVondracek .


The state's biggest political leaders have touted inbound migration, so-called "blue state refugees" who flooded South Dakota. But the biggest driver of partisan races this coming summer and fall appears to be a redistricting process, log-jamming Republicans in primaries and opening up new turf for Democrats.

Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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