Letting Voters Decide, Then Deciding Differently

POSTED BY MARTIN KICH

We are getting used to seeing this sort of thing in states in which, largely because of gerrymandering, the GOP control of state government is all out of proportion to their actual share of voters.

But, what is significant about this story, reported in the Daily Kos Elections: Voting Rights Roundup newsletter, is that it is occurring in South Dakota, one of the most solidly Republican states in the nation:

On Thursday, South Dakota’s Republican-dominated state government literally declared a “state of emergency” to repeal a voter-approved ethics reform law, in essence saying their burning desire to override the will of the public and trash ethics reform was a crisis equivalent to a hurricane or earthquake. Stunning.

Particularly infuriating is that lawmakers’ use of this emergency provision means that repeal will take effect immediately and is immune to a voter-referendum veto. And it would take twice as many signatures to initiate a constitutional amendment to restore the law as it would have to put a veto referendum on the ballot.

The ballot initiative, known as Measure 22, would have placed strict limits on lobbying, created an independent ethics commission, and implemented a first-in-the-nation public campaign finance system that would have given each voter a voucher to donate to their preferred candidates. These reforms passed by a 52-48 margin even as Donald Trump carried South Dakota by a 62-32 landslide, demonstrating that they had bipartisan support from the voters. Nonetheless, Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard insultingly claimed that voters were “hoodwinked” into passing the initiative.

Repealing the voter-approved law in this manner is a slap in the face for voters who are fed up with corruption, but hopefully it will serve as a warning for reformers in the future: If you want to subject lawmakers to restrictions that they personally oppose, you’d better make sure that your proposals alter the state constitution instead of merely changing a statute that lawmakers can easily repeal.

 

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