PIERRE, S.D. — A state task force voted Wednesday to back a measure that would ask voters to make it harder to change the South Dakota constitution.
The Initiative and Referendum Task Force voted 11-2 to send the plan to the Legislature. If lawmakers approve the proposal, it would put a constitutional amendment before voters in 2018. The amendment would increase the majority vote threshold required for a constitutional change to at least 55 percent of the votes cast on an amendment.
Republican Sen. Jim Bolin, a supporter, said the South Dakota constitution needs special protection. Bolin said bringing in paid signature gatherers to collect the necessary support to get on the ballot has “distorted the process.”
“Our constitution needs protection against a wide range of efforts to change it and to reform it and to alter it in ways that I think the general public is not really appreciative of,” Bolin said.
Initiated measures need nearly 14,000 valid signatures, while constitutional amendments require almost 28,000 names to go before voters. Sen. Reynold Nesiba, a Democrat who opposes the idea, said it’s already very difficult to change the constitution.
“I don’t think we need to protect the constitution any further from the people of South Dakota,” Nesiba said.
Bolin proposed a similar measure during the 2017 legislative session, but it was set aside in committee. Republicans have discussed changes to the ballot question system after the 2016 election season brought 10 questions and millions of dollars from out-of-state groups.
The task force Wednesday also offered support for other measures on topics ranging from petition and petition font size to resolving conflicts between measures or amendments adopted in the same election.