South Dakota high court upholds Amendment K ballot summary

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July 23, 2010

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PIERRE, South Dakota: The South Dakota Supreme Court unanimously upheld the ballot summary for Amendment K on Thursday, July 22. According to the high court's ruling, the attorney general's summary "objectively educates the voters of its purpose and effect."[1] Months earlier, South Dakota Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge John Brown denied the request to remove the measure from the ballot and upheld the South Dakota attorney general's official ballot explanation of the measure.[2]

The South Dakota State Federation of Labor filed a lawsuit in May 2010 to either rewrite Amendment K's ballot summary or remove it from the ballot. "The bottom line is we would like the court to go ahead and strike the measure, or at the very least to direct the attorney general to write a better explanation," said Steven Sandven, a Sioux Falls lawyer representing the federation. Specifically the federation argues that the summary incorrectly explains the measures and does not explain that voter approval of the amendment may make the state "vulnerable to an expensive lawsuit." However, Attorney General Marty Jackley argued that it was not his job to revise what legislators have approved. He defended the summary and said the measure should appear on the ballot for voters to decide.[3]

The high court, however, ruled that the mere possibility of a lawsuit does not justify the amendment of the summary. "In deciding what to state and how to state it, the attorney general is limited to 200 words. We have repeatedly held that how the attorney general says it is up to his professional discretion as attorney for the state. This court does not sit as an editorial review board," according to the opinion, written by Chief Justice David Gilbertson.[1]

Justices added that any further constitutional challenges to Amendment K will have to wait until after the November 2 general election.[4]

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