Sioux Falls, S.D. - Amendment V Nonpartisan Elections in South Dakota received two major endorsements Tuesday. The South Dakota League of Women Voters and AARP South Dakota announced their support for Amendment V, citing the 115,000 independent voters who are largely excluded from the current system. Both organizations say nonpartisan election reform is best for all voters.
“The South Dakota League of Women Voters has long worked to expand participatory democracy,” said League of Women Voters Spokesperson Amy Scott Stoltz. “Our core focus is ensuring all South Dakotans have a direct voice in choosing their elected representatives. Amendment V - Nonpartisan Elections gives every South Dakota voter that voice.”
“AARP South Dakota is focused on providing tangible benefits for our members. Passing Amendment V will provide a benefit that, in reality, is a fundamental American right – the ability to fully participate in our elections. Passing Amendment V will give more than 115,000 South Dakota Independents equal access to the electoral process,” said AARP South Dakota State Director Erik Gaikowski.
Often considered a deep red state, proponents of Amendment V argue most statewide and federal elections are decided in the primary. Argus Leader reports that only about 8 out of the state's 105 legislative elections (approximately 8%) feature competitive races, with more than a third of candidates running unopposed after the primary.
Why is this important? South Dakota runs semi-closed primary elections, in which the Republican and Democratic parties decide whether or not independent voters can participate in their taxpayer-funded primaries. Currently, the Democratic Party allows independent voters to participate, while Republicans do not.
Supporters of Amendment V say this significantly disenfranchises many voters -- particularly the 115,000 independent voters -- who end up having no say in who ends up representing them.
"Our partisan political system is failing South Dakota and our country. Today 45% of Americans identify as independents but have little voice. Even worse is that we’re locking out the next generation of leaders, as well over 50% of millennials identify as independents. I’m proud that the League of Women Voters and AARP South Dakota are standing with us to give every voter a voice,” stated Rick Knobe, chairman of Vote Yes on Amendment V.
Amendment V would implement nonpartisan elections similar to those used in California, Washington state, Nebraska state legislative races, and local South Dakota city elections like mayor and school board. All candidates for statewide and federal offices (minus the presidency) would run on a single primary ballot and all voters -- including independents -- would have an opportunity to choose whomever they wanted, regardless of party. The top two vote-getters would then advance to the November general election.