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LETTER: 2016 election taught SD citizens a lot

To the Editor: South Dakotans learned some important things during the debates over various ballot issues last fall. I am interested to see what our legislative leaders might do in the upcoming legislative session with that information. If nothin...

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To the Editor:

South Dakotans learned some important things during the debates over various ballot issues last fall. I am interested to see what our legislative leaders might do in the upcoming legislative session with that information. If nothing changes, I suspect citizens may decide they want a second look at improving state government themselves in 2018. We learned that:

• First, most South Dakota legislators are not truly "elected." Very few face a competitive general election to get into office. And legislators who don't face a general election contest tend to be answerable to their party, not the electorate.

• Second, Republicans in South Dakota are a minority of the state's registered voters, but the party holds all the cards. While only 46 percent of the registered voters in the state are Republican, all taxpayers pay for their primary, which has become the most important election in the state. Republican's hold 85 percent of the seats in the legislature.

• Third, most South Dakotans are underrepresented in our state legislature. Democrats are 31 percent of the registered voters in the state and independents are 22 percent. Together they represent 53 percent of our electorate. Democrats hold only 15 percent of the legislative seats. Independents are completely unrepresented in legislature. Something is obviously wrong with that.

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• Fourth, a one-party legislature is inherently weak. For those of us who appreciate the checks and balances provided by the two-party system, this comes as no surprise. A vocal minority party can play an essential role when government screws up.

• Fifth, open primaries offer a better way to select public officials who will represent all the people. On Nov. 8, Colorado voters decided to join Nebraska, Washington and California with an open primary system. They went with a more fair and inclusive election system, and hope for increased voter participation.

• Finally, the South Dakota Republican party establishment strongly resists changing this unfair system. Some Democrats, too. Republican officials financed the campaign against Amendment V.

Now that these shortcomings of our state government have been raised during the election, I am hopeful those in power will address the inequities and weaknesses.

Joe Kirby

Sioux Falls

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