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South Dakota May Ease Signature Removal from Ballot Petitions

State Rep. Jon Hansen has proposed making it easier for people who have signed a ballot initiative petition to be able to remove their signatures, which he says is “practically impossible” now.

One South Dakota lawmaker wants to make it easier for people who have signed a ballot initiative petition to be able to take their signatures off the paperwork.

Rep. Jon Hansen, R- Dell Rapids, spoke about HB1244 in committee Wednesday, where it gained the approval of lawmakers, 11-1. The bill stems from incidents during the summer when petition circulators may have spread misleading information about ballot initiatives that got people to sign the petitions.

Hansen added the bill would also allow people who signed the petition twice to have their signatures removed.

He said currently that "it's practically impossible" for someone to get their signature removed from a ballot petition, saying the person would have to chase down the petition circulator and scratch off their name. But his bill would set up a process, overseen by a court, to strike the names of those who wanted them removed.

The person would have to submit their name to the Secretary of State's Office for withdrawal. Then, "if there's a challenge to the validity of the signatures, which is a process that we have already set up in the law, then the secretary of state's only obligation is to give the withdraws to the parties."

"Obtaining petition signatures via fraud or misleading, that's not democracy," Hansen said.

Lone opposition came from Zebadiah Johnson, who represented the Voter Defense Association of South Dakota. Johnson said he was concerned the bill would lead to withdrawal of signature campaigns and could be found unconstitutional.

Florida struck down a similar law in 2010 with the state Supreme Court deciding that the legislation gutted the state's initiated measure process.

Rep. Erin Healy, D- Sioux Falls, was the lone no vote on the committee and said that when you removed the language over the ballot initiatives being used, the bill could create unintended consequences.

"This is a really serious issue that we see in front of us," she said. "I hope the Attorney General is taking care of this problem."

Rep. Will Mortenson, R- Fort Pierre, said that the bill added a right to voters and that the bill laid out a process that couldn't be taken advantage of "willy-nilly."

HB 1244 now heads to the House floor for consideration.

(c)2024 Rapid City Journal, S.D. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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