PIERRE, S.D. — People hoping to get their pet causes before voters are fanning out to fairs and other gatherings in South Dakota, collecting signatures for citizens’ initiatives on issues ranging from government ethics to looser marijuana laws.
Election Day 2018 is far off, but supporters need thousands of people to pledge support for their initiatives by Nov. 6 just to get on the ballot. Initiated measures need nearly 14,000 valid signatures, while constitutional amendments require almost 28,000 names.
Here’s a look at some of the proposed initiatives and a few reminders for voters:
RIGHT TO DIE
Activists pushing for South Dakota to join several states with laws allowing physician-assisted dying are gathering signatures for an initiative that would let terminally ill people get prescriptions for drugs to end their own lives. Under the plan, state-licensed physicians would be able to prescribe life-ending drugs to South Dakota patients who have diseases expected to kill them within six months.
New Approach South Dakota is collecting support for a pair of ballot measures that would relax South Dakota’s cannabis laws. A medical proposal would allow use by patients who have a health practitioner’s recommendation and serious conditions such as cancer, while a recreational measure is meant to allow people 21 and older to possess and use marijuana.
A writing error has called into question the recreational plan. A state interpretation of the wording found it would only legalize marijuana paraphernalia; supporters say the problem can be fixed later by the courts or the Legislature.
A separate sponsor has proposed a measure that would legalize marijuana and establish April 20 as “Cannabis Day” with free admission to state parks for residents.
Backers of a proposed anti-corruption constitutional amendment say they’ve collected more than half the signatures required to put it on the 2018 ballot. As of Aug. 12, the campaign had gathered more than 16,000 signatures, according to initiative group Represent South Dakota.
The amendment would replace a voter-imposed government ethics overhaul that South Dakota lawmakers repealed this year. It would tighten campaign finance and lobbying restrictions, create an independent ethics commission and require that laws changing the ballot question process be passed by a public vote, among other provisions.
House Speaker Mark Mickelson is pushing an initiative that would ban out-of-state political contributions for ballot questions. The move comes after out-of-state donors pumped over $10 million into campaigns for or against the state’s questions during the 2016 election cycle.
A similar bill capping out-of-state contributions failed in the Legislature this year, and experts have said such measures are unlikely to survive a legal challenge.
TOBACCO TAXES, TECH SCHOOLS
Another Mickelson-backed ballot measure would impose a $1 tax hike on a standard pack of cigarettes to make South Dakota’s four technical institutes more affordable.
The proposed ballot measure would increase taxes on different tobacco products including the $1 hike per 20-cigarette pack. South Dakota’s tax is currently $1.53 per pack, according to the Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy nonprofit.
A constitutional amendment that would take control of redistricting from South Dakota legislators and give it to an independent commission has been cleared to circulate. The commission would consist of nine people with no more than three from any one political party.
NOT QUITE READY
Measures that haven’t received the secretary of state’s approval for petitioning would:
— Restrict which facilities transgender students could use in South Dakota schools.
— Allow counties to switch to elections conducted entirely by mail ballot.
— Create “top two” primary elections for offices including governor and U.S. House and Senate.
— Impose a price limit on state drug purchases at the same or less than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
AND A FEW REMINDERS
Secretary of State Shantel Krebs says voters should be sure to read a proposed initiative’s entire text, not just the attorney general’s explanation. She says to ask for the circulator’s handout, which must include details such as the initiative’s title and explanation, contact information for the sponsor and whether the circulator is paid or a volunteer.
Krebs, whose website has more ballot measure information, also reminded voters that once they sign a petition, it can be difficult to get their signature removed.