Rapid City, SD – June 14, 2016 – In an Op-Ed published in the Rapid City Journal on Sunday, June 12, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a longtime proponent of nonpartisan open primaries, outlined his case for supporting proposed Amendment V – Nonpartisan Elections which will be decided by the voters of South Dakota on November 8.
Schwarzenegger, invoking the urgency of the national political environment where 76% of Americans feel their elected representatives “no longer care about people like me,” asks South Dakotans to help lead the country by taking away party control of elections and turning it over to voters. Amendment V would extend South Dakota’s local nonpartisan election system to cover all state and federal races except U.S. President. All voters, including independents, would be able to participate fully and vote for any candidate of their choice regardless of party.
In 2003, tired of hyper-partisanship’s dysfunctional impact, the citizens of California recalled Governor Gray Davis and held a nonpartisan, open election for their Governor’s office. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, was elected Governor in the traditionally Democratic state and went on to serve two terms. Schwarzenegger is generally credited for helping lead California’s comeback from crippling debt and divisive partisanship. As he notes in the op-ed, one of his key reforms was making California’s state and federal elections nonpartisan similar to Nebraska’s nonpartisan legislature and what Amendment V would do in South Dakota. Today, California has the most competitive elections in the country and its economy is thriving.
Brian Hagg, a Rapid City attorney, lifelong Republican and former Chairman of the Pennington County Republican Party said, “This op-ed brings to mind President Lincoln’s philosophy of government of, by and for the people. Our democracy is built on the constitutional principle that one person equals one vote and it’s apparent the political establishment is actively opposing the inclusion of Independents in our electoral process. This is fundamentally unacceptable.” Hagg currently serves as West-River Co-Chair for the Vote Yes on V campaign.
“I’m supporting this proposal because I think it would make our party stronger, not weaker. 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. I’m respectfully requesting that our elected South Dakota officials support Amendment V in the interest of strengthening American democracy,” Hagg continued.
“Finally, I believe, like Lincoln did, that our democracy needs to be a creative work in progress. For some reason, the partisan establishment often seems to be working against this goal and that’s why we are seeing a lot of South Dakotans, from both sides of the state, and all political persuasions, working hard to promote and pass Amendment V,” Hagg concluded.
Sioux Falls radio host Rick Knobe, Chairman of the Ballot Committee commented, “Governor Schwarzenegger has delivered an honest and persuasive message to the voters of South Dakota and the entire country – it’s time to open the closed doors of partisanship and give all the voters back the voice they deserve. It’s not fair to make me and the other 109,000 Independents in South Dakota pay taxes for elections we can’t vote in.” Knobe was elected Mayor of Sioux Falls as a 27-year old in the early 1970’s. Frustrated by partisan paralysis, Knobe became an Independent eight years ago.
Tamara Pier, a former City Attorney in Rapid City and Democratic Party Yes on V Ballot Committee member, said, “During my career at the City, I worked with Council members elected on a nonpartisan ballot. We approached our issues by looking for real solutions that worked for our community rather than a party win. In both the Legislature and Congress, the focus is on winning for the party, rather than winning for the common good of the state or the country.”
Pier added, “The Governor’s editorial is correct that this initiative faces a huge challenge. Defeating politics as usual is not easy, but it is a crucial fight for returning our government to the people. South Dakota, once again, has a chance to play a national leadership role in this effort and that is exactly what we intend to do.”
South Dakotans and Americans continue to witness rampant partisanship. From a Republican legislator in South Dakota being barred from his own caucus for defying his party leaders to both DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and RNC Chair Reince Priebus recently coming out in favor of closing all the presidential primaries in both parties to independent voters – citizens continue to receive daily reminders that our politics are broken. A recent Associated Press Survey found that 90% of Americans lacked confidence in the country’s overall political system and the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats-70%-favor an open primary system.
Amendment V would make South Dakota’s elections – except for US President – nonpartisan meaning that voters could vote for the person and not the party. Similar to South Dakota’s local elections for Mayor or City Council, all candidates would be listed on a single ballot. All voters, regardless of party, would simply vote for the candidate of their choice. The top two vote getters would then go on to the general election. Independent voters, who now number 109,000 in South Dakota, would equally participate with all other voters.
South Dakotans for a Non-Partisan Democracy is a group of Republican, Independent and Democratic leaders who placed Amendment V on the November ballot by collecting more than 40,000 signatures. More information on the group and this initiative can be found at www.voteyesonv.org.