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How Amendment V Fixes South Dakota's Broken Elections

by Jason Olson, published

Amendment V is modeled on the Nebraska system, that is among the most competitive in U.S.

Most voters would like to believe that their votes on Tuesday will decide the outcome of state legislative races. Unfortunately, they’re wrong. According to a recent study, 92% of state legislative elections were actually decided in the June 7 primary, with only 8% to be decided in the general election.

Joe Kirby, a Republican supporter of Amendment V, says that locks out most voters:

“Most of our elections are decided in the closed Republican primary, which locks out independents and Democrats, and a handful in Democratic primaries which lock out some Republicans. Very few South Dakotans cast a meaningful vote for the people who are supposed to represent them. That’s wrong.” - Joe Kirby

Legislators’ lack of accountability to voters creates an environment ripe for scandals like EB-5 and GEAR UP, says Kirby.

“It’s not a complicated concept. If the politicians aren’t accountable to the voters, that begins to trickle down into all facets of government. When it goes on long enough, then you get these kinds of scandals,” Kirby states.

For a solution, Kirby’s group modeled Amendment V on Nebraska’s nonpartisan, open primary for the state's legislature. Since 1934, Nebraska’s system has placed all legislative candidates on the ballot without party affiliation, and allowed all voters to vote for the person, not the party. The top two candidates move on to the general election.

Nebraska is rated as having some of the most competitive legislative elections in the country, the highest legislative approval rating (62% vs 36% for South Dakota), and allows all voters to participate. Kirby says, “Nebraska has figured out how to give power to the voters, rather than the establishment. We think South Dakota deserves that too.”

While South Dakota is one of the least competitive states in the country, partisan primaries decide about 85% of elections nationally.

“When voters say they’re angry because they feel like the politicians aren’t accountable to them, they’re absolutely right. This is why politicians pander to party leadership instead of representing ordinary voters,” says Kirby.

If Amendment V wins Tuesday, Kirby sees it as a way to fix national politics:

“The first step is winning in South Dakota. With all the national coverage and interest we’ve gotten, this can be the spark that ignites a movement. South Dakota has a chance to fix America’s broken politics.” - Joe Kirby

Amendment V has been endorsed by AARP South Dakota, the League of Women Voters of South Dakota, the Rapid City Journal, the Mitchell Daily Republic, the Watertown Public Opinion, and a diverse group of prominent Republicans, Democrats, and independents from across South Dakota.

Promotions for this article paid for by Yes on V – South Dakotans for Nonpartisan Elections

Photo Credit: Nagel Photography /

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