Don’t vote for wolf in sheep’s clothing

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Amendment A, the proposed amendment to the South Dakota state constitution that would allow juries to try laws and not just people, is a terrible idea.

The concept of Amendment A has been advanced by many, but the leading voice calling out for Amendment A has been the libertarian candidate for attorney general, Bob Newland, who wrote, “Legislators try to do good things when they make laws. Occasionally, however, even well-intended laws cause disasters for peaceful, honest people.”

It may seem attractive at first. And its proponents sure can convincingly argue their point. If you listen to their rhetoric, the South Dakota state legislature crafts many crazy laws that need to be changed and only our juries can change them.

To be fair to the opposing point of view, South Dakota’s legislature does make some odd decisions (the gag law leaps readily to mind), but it doesn’t necessarily make any more odd decisions than any other governing body.

When one looks at Amendment A with a more critical eye, it becomes apparent that the amendment is clumsily crafted and a piece of law which would open up many governmental Pandora’s boxes that we may not be able to handle.

First, there is the issue of equality. Let’s say one man goes to jail for possession of medical marijuana and another is found innocent by a jury that believes medical marijuana laws are unfair to those who need the drug to alleviate pain. What happens to the first person? Are they let out of jail free? Or do they have to serve their time? And what of the people convicted for possessing marijuana with an intent to use it recreationally?

Furthermore, Amendment A negates the influence of those who write the laws. As a representative democracy, citizens of this state vote in who they believe will best represent their views in the state legislature. To allow a group of 12 people to speak against a law carefully crafted by those who have been selected by thousands is preposterous at best.

Finally, the amendment has found the favor of neither major political party. It is rare that something is equally despised by Democrats and Republicans, but Amendment A fits that bill. These parties oppose this amendment for a reason. It doesn’t just try to tack on a minor law to the state code. It attempts to change our entire constitution.

The United States and South Dakota governments are carefully set up to let the people have the power, but not too much power. Absolute democracy is impossible and dangerous. Amendment A wants absolute democracy, a system which can crumble at the hands of who the loudest interest group is.

Amendment A is not a good idea. When you go to the polls in November, don’t vote for it. This wolf in sheep’s clothing has the potential to rip and tear at the fabric of our state.

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