South Dakota smoking referendum challenged
South Dakota: Last week, opponents of the 2010 smoking ban referendum filed a challenge to referendum petition signatures only days after the referendum petition was submitted and signatures were certified. The South Dakota Tobacco-Free Kids Network, an opponent of the referendum, said that during a five-day audit of the submitted signatures they discovered that 39% of the signatures were not by valid registered voters. The challenge marks not only the possible block of a controversial issue from the 2010 state ballot but also the first time a group is challenging a petition to put an issue on a statewide ballot. In order to place the measure on the ballot 16,776 valid signatures are required. Referendum supporters submitted submitted 25,000 on June 22, 2009.
In light of the challenge on Monday, July 6, 2009, the Secretary of State's office will begin to review the approximately 10,000 challenged signatures. The review is expected to take weeks. However, should the signatures be found to be invalid, Secretary of State Chris Nelson will have to consult with Attorney General Larry Long to determine what to do next. "I think it's a fascinating part of what our election process is and it will be interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks," said Deputy Secretary of State Teresa Bray.
If the signatures are found to be valid, however, Allen Nord, chairman of the South Dakota Tobacco Free Kids Network, said, "If he approves the petition and can verify that they actually have the number needed, then we are very willing to follow that and we will prepare for an election in November of 2010."
Originally the expanded state smoking ban, approved earlier this year, was supposed to go into effect on July 1, 2009 but the approved petition halted the ban.