IM 24: Measure would quell out-of-state influence in elections

By: 
Dana Hess, S.D. Newspaper Association
On Nov. 6, voters will decide if out-of-staters can continue to be involved in South Dakota elections.
Initiated Measure 24 would prohibit contributions to ballot question committees by nonresidents, out-of-state political committees and entities that are not filed with the South Dakota Secretary of State.
IM 24 will help protect the nation’s first referendum and initiated measure system from the influence of out-of-state interests, according to Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
Groups outside of South Dakota are using the state’s low threshold for signature gathering and inexpensive media markets to influence the ballot, Daugaard said, causing voters to rely on 30-second commercials to decide on the worth of a measure that may be 30 pages long.
“People who have a national agenda are hijacking our ballot,” Daugaard said.
They’ll only be able to hijack it if voters let them, according to Steve Willard, president of the South Dakota Broadcasters Association, who doesn’t agree that out-of-state interests have too much influence on the South Dakota ballot.
“That’s kind of insulting,” Willard said. “I can decide who I listen to.”
Daugaard noted that $9.6 million was spent on six of the seven measures that were on the 2016 ballot with just 3 percent of that money coming from South Dakotans.
Willard said many statewide associations find themselves interested in the passage or defeat of ballot issues. If IM 24 passes, they won’t be able to call on their national organization for help.
“That doesn’t make sense to me at all,” Willard said. “We have to reach out to our national group.”
In his ballot explanation, Attorney General Marty Jackley said that if it passes, Initiated Measure 24 will likely face a court challenge on constitutional grounds.
Willard agrees, noting that while most past court rulings have dealt with contributions to political candidates, the First Amendment lawyers who have seen IM 24 have called it “drop-dead unconstitutional.”
As an example, Willard said passage of IM 24 would keep out-of-state alumni from having their say if closing a university was on the ballot. He noted that this year’s vote on a tobacco tax increase is of direct interest to tobacco companies.
“The solution is worse than the problem,” Willard said.
Daugaard looks to the federal government for an example of how to keep unwanted interests from influencing an election without running afoul of the constitution.
“We don’t allow foreign governments to influence national elections,” said Daugaard who is confident that IM 24 will succeed.
“Most people support the measure, if they understand it,” Daugaard said. “South Dakotans object to outsiders imposing their influence” on the ballot.
There’s more going on than just keeping out-of-state influence away from the ballot, Willard said.
“At face value, it sounds good,” Willard said of IM 24. “I’d rather be known as the state with discerning voters than a state that’s scared of out-of-state interests.”
 

 

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