SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota’s House speaker said Tuesday that lawmakers may put their own constitutional amendments to voters in next year’s June primary — separate from citizens’ initiatives on the fall general election ballot.
Republican Rep. Mark Mickelson said that officials have discussed the idea because the November 2018 ballot could be “cluttered” with a slew of other initiatives. Mickelson said lawmakers next year could advance amendments asking voters to increase legislator pay, repeal a crime victims’ measure and end citizens’ ability to gather signatures to propose constitutional changes.
“If we have bipartisan, well-supported proposed constitutional amendments, I think that’s an option we could consider,” Mickelson said of the primary election proposal. That date would avoid the expense of a separate election, he said.
Initiative campaigns have submitted signatures for eight ballot questions — including two proposed laws from Mickelson — to the Secretary of State’s office to get on the November 2018 ballot.
House Minority Leader Spencer Hawley panned the proposal to put lawmakers’ amendments on the June ballot, saying constitutional changes shouldn’t be decided in a lower-turnout primary election. Hawley said he expects Democrats to oppose such a law.
Democratic Rep. Susan Wismer said major GOP primary races for governor and U.S. House signal high Republican turnout in June, while Democrats currently don’t have any high-profile intraparty contests to drive their voters to the polls. Republicans hold supermajorities in the Legislature.
“They’re picking their voters when they decide to change an election date to their advantage,” Wismer said. “It’s just another example of what happens when you allow one party to be in such extreme control for so many years.”
Mitch Richter, co-sponsor of a proposed government ethics constitutional amendment, said that it’s unfortunate legislators don’t “want to let everybody play by the same set of rules.”
The draft bill putting the 2018 Legislature’s amendments to voters at the next primary election was among the legislative Executive Board’s documents for its Monday meeting, but lawmakers didn’t act on the plan at the hearing. The proposal contains an emergency provision that would block voters from referring it to the ballot if it’s approved.