Poll Shows Strong Support for 'Top Two' Measure in South Dakota

Created: 13 June, 2024
2 min read

A recent poll shows that 55% of South Dakota voters support Amendment H, which if approved in November will implement a nonpartisan, top-two primary in the state similar to systems used in California and Washington.

Under a nonpartisan primary system, all voters and candidates, regardless of political affiliation, participate on a single ballot and the top vote-getters move on to the general election. The number of candidates depends on the system.

In California, for instance, every voter has the opportunity to participate in the taxpayer-funded primaries for statewide, legislative, and US House and Senate elections and the top-two candidates appear on the November ballot.

In Alaska, voters advance the top four candidates and use ranked choice voting in the general election to ensure a candidate does not win my mere plurality (less than 50% of the vote).

Amendment H adopts a primary model similar to the one used in California for governor, Congress, the legislature, and county races. Party primaries are eliminated in favor of a system that puts all voters and candidates on a level playing field.

“The main argument for this amendment is fairness,” South Dakota Open Primaries Chairman Joe Kirby told poll co-sponsors South Dakota News Watch. “All voters should have an equal voice in electing their representatives and leaders.”

Kirby has worked for years to bring primary reform to the state and Amendment H may have the best chance at passing.

The poll on Amendment H was also sponsored by the Chiesman Center for Democracy and surveyed 500 registered voters. Not only did the results show majority support for the amendment, but support has grown.

A similar poll conducted in November 2023 found support at 49%. The biggest difference between the two polls were the percentage of voters who said they were undecided. It went from 17% undecided to 12% undecided in the most recent poll.

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Support for Amendment H jumped 6 points, while opposition remained about the same. This is a good sign for supporters of Amendment H as it appears that when undecided voters make up their minds, they are more likely to support it than oppose it.

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