“I don’t know what they want from me
It’s like the more money we come across
The more problems we see.”
“Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” - Notorious B.I.G.
While our national political leaders are busy trying to blame the other side for a leak from the nation’s highest judicial body, rather than worry about the millions of people who that ruling will affect, the first full week of absentee voting for the June 7 primary election completed this past week in South Dakota.
Turnout has been moderate, at best, as it usually is across the state, but that’s exactly what those who brought Constitutional Amendment C were hoping for when the measure was put on the primary ballot.
Quite frankly, there are a lot of people in Pierre who would prefer all laws are made by people in Pierre and only people in Pierre, and Amendment C is a significant step in that direction.
Putting it on the primary ballot, when voter turnout statewide is typically in the range of 25-40% of the November ballot (and that includes years with a Presidential primary), already stinks of trying to sneak something past the majority of voters.
When one of the main backers of the bill, State Senator Lee Schoenbeck, flat-out said that he put the amendment on the June ballot rather than November in order to have it codified before potential Medicaid expansion votes take place this fall by the general populous, it goes from stinky to downright sleazy.
South Dakota is represented by a legislature that is 90% from one party. The general population however, does not have a political party that shows even 50% registration of that population.
A good check and balance to districting that is done by the legislature is the ability of the general populace to petition to put laws on the books through constitutional amendments and ballot initiatives.
The legislature can also refer constitutional amendments to the voters, which is how Amendment C ended up on the ballot.
First, what does Amendment C do?
If approved, Amendment C would specify that any ballot initiative or constitutional amendment requiring a state appropriation of $10 million or more in the first five years of the measure, receive 60% approval in order to go into effect.
That’s the basic reading of the bill.
It’s important to know some background first, however.
Let’s look at our history.
Since 2000, a total of 69 ballot measures and constitutional amendments have come before South Dakota voters for any reason. Only 29 of those have passed. Getting something approved in this manner is difficult already.
The proponents of Amendment C will quickly tell you that the average approved bill had more than 60% of the statewide vote. That is true — 61.3%, in fact.
However, anyone with an introduction to statistics class can tell you the difference between mean (average) and median. This is a good time to look at that.
Due to six of the approved measures receiving at least a whopping 72.5% “yes” vote, the mean of the sample is significantly skewed.
When you lay all the passed bills and find the median, it’s actually below the 60% threshold, at 56.75%.
To be clear, of the 29 measures passed by voters of the 69 proposed, only 11 reached the 60% mark on any subject, let alone on subjects that could lead to increased taxes!
Heck, our own legislators couldn’t reach 60% of their own to refer this amendment to the ballot. The measure barely passed the Senate, by a vote of 18-17.
The random number of $10 million over five years is laughable as well, considering the most recent legislature passed two record bills for one-time funding.
The first, using federal funds, for 60 times that amount ($600 million) and the second, using state funds, for 20 times that amount, or $200 million.
There’s a big reason why that number is so low, though.
As Dr. Pamela Carriveau of Black Hills State University said about the bill, “Most initiatives involve some kind of spending, and none of them pass with 60% of the vote. So, it would significantly thwart, I guess, the ability of people to use the initiative or referendum process to try to get policies changed in South Dakota.”
Therein lies the real crux of the issue.
Voters in this state send representatives to Pierre, and the way districts have been drawn up, at least a three-quarters majority will continue to be enjoyed by one party.
However, every vote counts equally, whether it’s a farmer in Broadland, a banker in Huron, a gas clerk in Miller, or the owner of six businesses in Sioux Falls.
Every South Dakotan’s vote matters, and this would remove the ability for the people of the state to have their voices equally heard.
If you are registered as anything but Republican, you don’t have a primary race upon which to vote in Beadle County.
In my personal opinion, however, it would be in your great interest to protect your ability to speak for yourself by voting against Amendment C via absentee ballot at the Beadle County courthouse currently or on primary election day, June 7.