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More Independent Grief

Jul 23, 2014

In my last column, I explained how South Dakota petition law makes it harder for Independents to get on the ballot. This week, we see South Dakota won't give Independent candidates a fair shake even when they don't need to petition their way to the ballot. 

Last winter, Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers filed a document naming Vermillion lawyer Caitlin Collier as his running mate. State law requires that Independent gubernatorial candidates certify their running mates before circulating their own nominating petitions. Independent petitions are due the last Tuesday of April, so the practical Independent will name a lieutenant governor candidate by January. Partisan candidates face no such early requirement: their party committees don't need to certify their running mates until the second Tuesday of August.

A lot can happen between January and August. Collier has run into family issues (nothing nefarious, but none of our business) that prevent her from campaigning effectively. She filed a formal withdrawal of her candidacy on June 12, two weeks before the Democratic gubernatorial nominee even had a running mate. On July 8, Myers announced his replacement for Collier, former Sioux Falls legislator and GOP gubernatorial candidate Lora Hubbel.

Myers's choice is fascinating politically, given the swing from Democrat Collier to Tea Partier Hubbel. His choice is also illegal, according to Secretary of State Jason Gant, who refuses to recognize Hubbel's candidacy or Collier's withdrawal. In a July 18 letter to Hubbel, Secretary Gant says South Dakota law provides a mechanism only for partisan candidates to withdraw and be replaced on the ballot. Gant says the absence of statute ties his hands; Hubbel can become South Dakota's second in command only if Myers wins the election, appoints Hubbel, and wins a majority confirmation vote from both chambers of the Legislature.

Gant's decision smells of punishment, not public interest. No ballots have been printed yet, no votes cast. Recognizing Collier's withdrawal and Myers's good-faith effort to replace her overturns no vote or petition. Placing Hubbel's name on the ballot does not directly violate any state law; it simply would do what state law allows every partisan candidate to do this year until August 12. 

Gant's decision actually takes away voters' rights with a false ballot. Those wishing to vote for Myers will have to vote for a woman who is not really running. Worse, attentive voters who know who's who and crave the chance to call Lora Lieutenant lose their right to vote: Gant's decision subjects their vote to approval of the Legislature, a discounting of voters' wishes that happens nowhere else on the ballot.

Secretary Gant can avoid this absurd situation. He can give the voters an accurate ballot without harming any constitutional rights or compelling state interest. He can solve this problem now by taking action that statute does not explicitly prohibit but which legislators haven't yet addressed. He can solve this problem long-term by telling 2015 Legislature to write new statutes that make clear that Independent gubernatorial candidates have the same freedom to choose and replace their running mates that partisan candidates have.

Editor's Note: Cory Heidelberger is our political columnist from the left. For a conservative perspective on politics, please look for columns by Dr. Ken Blanchard on this site.

Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and has taught math, English, speech, and French at high schools East and West River.


11:05 am - Wed, July 23 2014
dave tunge said:
If Wal-Mart and Target made the rules on who could compete with them on their turf just how much competition do you think they would have?
05:32 pm - Wed, July 23 2014
Good comparison, Dave. Such rules would violate the free market as surely as the statutes by which Republicans and Democrats put all non-party members at a disadvantage violate free elections. Oligopoly is unhealthy in the economics and politics. Care to join me in lobbying legislators to equalize election statutes for Independents?
10:20 am - Thu, July 24 2014
Robert X said:
"Oligopoly is unhealthy in the economics and politics."

Really? FDR tried it with NIRA.

Unions continue to practice oligopoly without shame.

I guess oligopoly is fine, unless it's not!
10:25 am - Thu, July 24 2014
Robert X said:
"He can give the voters an accurate ballot without harming any constitutional rights or compelling state interest."

A "compelling state interest" is not the legal standard for the state acting in regards to ballots.

"Gant's decision smells of punishment, not public interest."

You can disagree with Gant, but his legal point remains--there is no law allowing him to do what you want him to do! You can call that whatever you wish, but don't impugn his motives (as is your typical practice).
08:36 pm - Thu, July 24 2014
Nowhere in this essay do I defend FDR's NIRA. This recycled generic blast is irrelevant to the specifics of the unfairness the main parties impose on Independents in state election law.

There is no law prohibiting Gant from acting in the interest of the voters whom he is sworn to serve. His legal point is a stretch, an excuse for inaction and for subjecting voters to an inaccurate ballot.
06:13 am - Fri, July 25 2014
Ed said:
I thought Dick, Harvey and Lorna did similar things in their time of leadership?
12:45 pm - Fri, July 25 2014
Robert X said:
"His choice is also illegal, according to Secretary of State Jason Gant, who refuses to recognize Hubbel's candidacy or Collier's withdrawal."

Where did Gant state hat it was illegal? It's not.

Myer's choice is just that--a choice What Gant has stated is that the State does not and cannot legally recognize it to put it on the ballot. There's no "illegality" to Myer's desired change! Myers is not going to be charged or sued. No one is going to jail. Gant simply stated that the change cannot appear on the ballot..
12:57 pm - Fri, July 25 2014
Robert X said:

My, that's a stretch!

The main parties imposed NOTHING on the process--it's state law. If you wish to change it, stop pretending to be in SD, return to SD, and lobby for the change.

But no one of substance cares to change the law because there are 100s of more important issues to address, like whether O'Gorman will win another football championship in 2014.

Stretching legal points? Gant is 1000 times more informed on the the law than some out-of-state wannabe who whined that Rapid City council's prayer before its meetings was "illegal".

Gant did not swear to serve the interest of the voters--he swore to uphold the SD and US constitutions.

Yep, quite an "essay"!
05:10 pm - Mon, July 28 2014
"Robert X"'s speciousness and personal insults never cease.

The only "point" worth responding to from "Robert is this: The parties imposed the process itself. They wrote the laws that govern the process. They rig the system to insulate themselves from challenges to their two-party dominance.
05:12 pm - Mon, July 28 2014
Are you referring to Kneip and the Herseths, Ed? If so, would you care to give me an example of similar exclusions of Independent candidates? If you can give me specific examples, I may well join you in criticizing those historical actions. But I prefer not to shoot in the dark.
07:43 am - Sat, August 9 2014
Robert X said:
"Essays" require some research.

The factual mistakes that I pointed out indicate precious little research occurred. If pointing out mistakes is a "personal insult", then stop making them. (I'm not sure how one can be "specious" while quoting the author and responding directly to the quotes!)

What we have here is not an essay; we have another poorly researched and poorly written attack on elected leaders.

We can do better.

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