Opponents squabble over election reform - Open Primaries
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Posted by jesse shayne on October 14, 2016 at 3:42 PM

Opponents squabble over election reform

This is an excerpt of an article written by Evan Hendershot for the Mitchell Daily Republic

Thursday night's forum also featured a discussion over Constitutional Amendment V, which would open primary elections to all of South Dakota's 535,958 registered voters while removing political party affiliation from the ballot.

Joe Kirby, chair of the Vote Yes on V initiative, and Vehle answered questions about the amendment before approximately 40 people in Council Chambers, with Kirby speaking in favor of the amendment and Vehle passionately arguing against it.

While both are Republicans, they disagreed wholeheartedly on the amendment that would eliminate the Democratic and Republican primaries in the state in favor of a single primary in which the top two vote-getters — regardless of party affiliation — would move on to the November general election.

But Vehle said Amendment V hides information from voters by removing party affiliation and said "Amendment V is a solution looking for a problem." Vehle also said the amendment assumes a party dictates how a politician votes in local, state and federal elected office.

"I can guarantee you no party tells me what to do, period," Vehle said.

But Kirby argued the amendment is an overhaul to an archaic system that restricts registered Democrats and independents from voting in the Republican primary and Republicans from voting in the Democratic primary. Kirby also argued Amendment V would help the state's 114,881 "disenfranchised" independents acquire full ballot access in the June primary.

"That's what we're seeing is a growing number of independents, many of them very youthful," Kirby said. "We're losing the young people in our elections, we need to get them re-engaged, we need better voter turnout, and this would do it."

When asked why prominent political figures like Daugaard and U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, both Republicans, have come out in opposition to Amendment V, Vehle again pointed to the a perceived lack of disclosure created by removing party affiliations from the ballot.

"They feel, as I do, when you take and say 'You cannot put what party you're on on the ballot,' I look at that and I say, 'What are you trying to hide?" Vehle said.

Kirby responded, saying political parties control the electoral system under the current laws, and Amendment V would remove power from the parties and bring elected candidates closer to the center of the ideological spectrum.

And, he said, it's typical for elected officials to support the process that put them in power.

"It's not uncommon for the people in office to want to protect the system that put them in office," Kirby said.

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