Last year South Dakotans cast their vote for a near record breaking 10 ballot measures, nearly beating the modern record set in 2006 of 11 measures in an election.
Next year we may be poised to beat the 2006 ballot measure record, as 20 measures have been submitted for review and several have been approved for circulation. But before any of these measures can make it to the ballot, they must collect enough valid signatures from South Dakota voters before the November 6th deadline.
Like every election, most ballot measures have good intentions but some may have unintended consequences that voters should consider before signing off on to put them on the ballot – or vote them in. Something I know all too well from personal experience.
In 2015, I remember being approached by a petition circulator who asked if I would be willing to sign his petition for Marsy’s Law. I asked him to explain what the measure would do and after his explanation that the measure would guarantee equal rights for victims in the judicial process, I made the decision to sign it.
But soon after signing the petition, I did some research of my own and learned that the measure was sponsored by an out-of-state group and that measure could have significant costs for local taxpayers, which the measure’s sponsors wouldn’t have to bear. It quickly became apparent to me that it wasn’t as simple as the circulator had explained; and whether or not it was a good decision to sign it – I was disappointed in myself for not taking the time to evaluate the issue and make an informed decision beforehand.
Many of the upcoming 2018 election ballot measures sound good on the surface, but by digging a little deeper, you may find they carry some unintended consequences. That’s why I plan to ask questions and slow down this year when approached to sign another ballot measure petition.
Petition circulators are great salesman and know how to do their job quickly and effectively, but some simple questions may get some answers to give pause before signing.
A great question is to ask whether the measure’s sponsor is from South Dakota or not. Out of state groups commonly want to have their cake and eat it too – by pushing their agendas while never facing the unintended consequences they may have. I want to know the people that came up with the law, whether good or bad, will have to live under it just like you and me if it passes.
Often these out-of-state groups hire professional circulators to get the required number of signatures to get their issue on our ballot. That’s why it’s worth asking the petition circulator whether they are being paid or are a volunteer – it’s the difference between doing a job or believing in a cause.
And finally ask to read the Attorney General’s explanation of the measure, which is on the back of every petition in its entirety. It’s worth reading, if not just to make sure that the circulator isn’t selling you a bill of goods.
South Dakota is the birthplace of the ballot measure process, leading the country in this vital tool, and we should all participate. But we should do so informed and confidently in our decision, because we’re the ones that have to live with our choices.