Will Trump-Clinton choice boost case for non-partisan elections?
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Posted by jesse shayne on June 15, 2016 at 5:12 PM

This article was written by Diana Ferguson for Argus Leader

Will Trump-Clinton choice boost case for non-partisan elections?

At least one South Dakotan sees a bright spot with this year's presidential candidates.

Rick Knobe, chairman of a committee trying to convince voters to back non-partisan statewide elections, said frustration with the presumptive nominees for both major parties should help his group make the case for reform with many voters.

"I think it's going to be pretty much brutally obvious that the choices that are before us right now are not very satisfying to some people," Knobe said. "And we're not aiming to change the process at the national level, but there will be frustration that will be easy to tap into."

South Dakotans for Non-Partisan Elections is the backer of a constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters in November, would create a single primary for state races in which candidates appeared on the ballot without party designation. The two candidates with the most votes would move on to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

The system would not apply to presidential primary races.

The comment comes days after former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger penned an op-ed for the Rapid City Journal in support of the constitutional amendment. And another prominent South Dakota Republican, Brian Hagg, said the primary process should be overhauled.

Opponents have said the process obscures transparency in the electoral process as candidates don't initially disclose their party affiliation.

In his column, Schwarzenegger cites his experience running for the seat of incumbent Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. Davis lost a recall election in 2003.

He said presidential primaries across the country have shown that voters are angry with the system and with office holders that don't represent all political interests.

"I find it shocking but not surprising that our government is so out of touch with the voters," Schwarzenegger writes. "The reason for this disconnect is simple: the political parties and special interests are running our country and have locked the voters out."

In a statement Tuesday, Hagg, a Rapid City attorney and former Chairman of the Pennington County Republican Party, said voters should each have equal opportunity to voice their opinions in primary elections. Existing rules prevent independent voters from expressing that right in full as they are not allowed to vote in the Republican Party's primary.

"I'm supporting this proposal because I think it would make our party stronger, not weaker," Hagg said. "If the GOP isn't able to accept that, then it's not the party I've believed in and supported and worked for my entire life."

Ryan Budmayr, executive director of the South Dakota Republican Party, said the group won't take a stance on the measure until it's annual conference next week.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment V:

If approved, the constitutional amendment would allow candidates in primary elections to appear on the ballot without a party designation. The two who emerged from the primary election would move on to the general election regardless of party affiliation. The system would not apply to presidential primary races.


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