Laws governing the initiative process in South Dakota (archive)

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In South Dakota, citizens can use the initiative process to:

How the process begins

First, sponsors must submit any initiated measure or constitutional amendment in text to the director of the Legislative Research Council who will within 15 days provide written comments on the measure to the sponsors and the South Dakota Secretary of State. The sponsors of the initiative need not make any changes based on what the Legislative Research Council recommends. (See ballot title.)

The full text of any petition to be circulated to put a question on the general election ballot complete with names and addresses of the petition sponsors must be filed with the Secretary of State prior to circulation for signatures. No signatures obtained before that filing date will be counted.

All sections of any completed ballot question petition shall be filed simultaneously together with a sworn affidavit prescribed by the State Board of Elections signed by two-thirds of the sponsors.

Details and regulations


See also: Petition drive deadlines, 2012

Initiative language can be submitted at any time. The maximum allowable time for circulation is one year. For the 2012 General Election, the deadline to submit signatures for initiated constitutional amendments and initiated statutes was November 1, 2011.[1]

Distribution requirement

South Dakota does not have a geographic distribution requirement.

Residency requirements

Main article: Residency requirements for petition circulators

Individuals circulating I&R petitions in South Dakota must be residents of South Dakota.

Signature requirements

Main article: South Dakota signature requirements

In South Dakota, signatures are tied to the number of votes cast for the office of governor in the state's most recent gubernatorial election. For statutes or veto referendums, signatures equal to 5% of this vote are required. For constitutional amendments, signatures equal to 10% are required.

Year Constitutional Amendment Statute Veto referendum
2016 27,740 13,870 13,870
2014 31,708 15,854 15,854
2012 31,708 15,854 15,854
2010 33,551 16,776 16,776
2008 33,551 16,776 16,776

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: South Dakota Constitution, Article III, Section 1 & Article III, Section 1

Verification process

Each signature is verified until reaching the minimum number of valid signatures needed to qualify an issue for the ballot, at which time no further signatures are scrutinized.

Single-subject rule

South Dakota does not have a single-subject rule.

Legislative tampering

Main article: Legislative tampering

The South Dakota State Legislature can both repeal and amend initiated state statutes.

New restrictions on circulators

A new law was enacted in 2007 pertaining to paid circulators. According to this law, circulators for statewide initiatives cannot be employed based on a per-signature payment method. Instead the law is as follows:

  1. Paying an hourly wage or salary is acceptable.
  2. Establishing either expressed or implied minimum signature requirements for the petition circulator is allowed.
  3. Terminating the employment of circulators that fail to meet productivity requirements is allowed.
  4. Paying bonuses based on longevity and productivity is allowed.[2]

Proposed changes


Changes in 2011 to laws governing ballot measures

Bills that have or might be introduced in the 2011 session of the South Dakota State Legislature include:


Changes in 2010 to laws governing ballot measures

The following proposals were made during the 2009-2010 session of the South Dakota State Legislature:


Members of the South Dakota State Legislature want to change laws governing the initiative process in South Dakota to require additional donor disclosure. One new law, SB180, would apply that when organizations give more than $10,000 to a ballot measure committee, someone from the organization would have to file a signed statement with election officials swearing that the money wasn't raised for the purpose of influencing the ballot question, or file a full report as a ballot committee. A second bill defines "treasury funds" as "funds of an organization that were not raised or collected from any other source for the purpose of influencing a ballot question."[3]

Campaign finance

Main Article: Campaign finance requirements for South Dakota ballot measures

The notable features of South Dakota's campaign finance law are:

  • Groups in support or opposition of a ballot issue are treated differently than other political committees.
  • Corporations and labor unions can donate to groups in support or opposition of a ballot issue.
  • South Dakota requires immediate reporting all advertisements over $1,000 made by independent expenditure groups within 48 hours after the ad was first disseminated.
  • Corporations and labor unions who plan to donate to a Ballot Issue Committee must file a series of statements with the South Dakota Secretary of State that certifies them in good standing.

External links