Citizens evaluate ballot issue merits

Adam Zobel

Adam Zobel

In addition to the plethora of candidates running for various offices this election season, South Dakota voters will also decide the fate of three proposed constitutional amendments and an initiated measure.

Despite the presence of four ballot issues this year, the number is two short of the average over the past decade and is a far cry from the abundance of proposals that are on some ballots.

Two of this year’s measures have attracted some attention, while two of the proposals seek to clarify the state Constitution.

Constitutional Amendment A, not to be confused with the failed amendment voted on in the June primary, would allow criminal defendants to argue the law’s merits, validity and applicability.

According to Amendment A proponent Bob Newland, a Hermosa resident who spearheaded the effort to place Amendment A on this fall’s ballot, this amendment would allow an accused person to “present a complete defense.”

Newland argues that honest people have been prosecuted by zealous lawyers; instances include an elderly man convicted of animal cruelty after defending himself from a dog and parents who were convicted of child pornography after they took photographs of their toddler in a bathtub.

Attorney Robert Frieberg of Beresford argues against Amendment A by claiming that juries could be “arbitrary, unreasonable, vindictive, mean spirited, ignorant and unpatriotic” as they would be able to ignore the law without reason. He also makes the case that this proposed amendment would be disruptive and destabilizing.

Constitutional Amendment B would require the state Legislature to adopt a new plan for legislative districts if a court were to invalidate the prior apportionment work of the Legislature.

According to State Rep. Matthew Michels, R-Yankton, the South Dakota Constitution does not currently provide any authority for the Legislature to approve a new plan for redistricting in the event of court action striking down a previously-approved plan for apportionment.

No opposition statement to Amendment B was submitted to the Secretary of State’s office.

Constitutional Amendment C would extend the amount of time allowed for the governor to review legislation that has been passed by the Legislature by not including weekends and holidays in the timeframe that the governor has to consider a bill.

According to the statement submitted by Jim Soyer of the Governor’s Office, the amount of legislation presented to the governor has increased dramatically over the past twenty years.

No opposition statement to Amendment C was submitted to the Secretary of State’s office.

Initiated Measure One proposes a law that would legalize industrial hemp, a plant similar to marijuana. However, this law would be preempted by federal law, which currently prohibits the unlicensed cultivation of marijuana and industrial hemp.

According to industrial hemp proponents Bob and Shirley Weber of Clear Lake, industrial hemp is “the most versatile crop on earth” as it can be used for such products as paper, soap, rope and diesel fuel. This crop would also “give farmers another choice for a crop they can market profitably.”

Major Dan Mosteller of the South Dakota Highway Patrol countered saying the similarities between industrial hemp and marijuana “would be a nightmare for law enforcement, opening the door for drug pushers.”

“This (industrial hemp) is not a cost-effective option for farmers looking to diversify,” he said.

According to Election Supervisor Kea Warne, the number of ballot questions is slightly below the average of six questions from 1990 to 2000. Nine questions were on the ballot in 1998 and seven questions were being voted on in both 1990 and 1994. In addition, special elections were held in 1993 and 2001 to vote on proposed ballot questions.

A proposed constitutional amendment is placed on the ballot either as the result of legislative action or a successful petition drive. An initiated measure reaches the ballot as either a proposal originated by the public or a law passed by the Legislature that has been referred by voters; each route requires a petition effort.

The South Dakota Secretary of State’s office is required by law to solicit statements from both proponents and opponents of amendments and initiated measures; in addition, the Attorney General submits the title, explanation and effect of a vote for each ballot question. This information is then made public and distributed throughout the state.

For more information on the fall elections, browse the Secretary of State’s web page at Immediate elections returns will be available on November 5th by visiting the Secretary of State’s web page or by calling 1-888-70ELECT.