Photo looking up into dome of capitol building in Pierre, SD

Voters boldly reject Amendment C

South Dakota voters boldly defeated Constitutional Amendment C in June. Election returns provided a clear picture of voter sentiment with 67% opposed to the amendment versus 33% in support.

The state legislature placed Amendment C on the ballot and suspended their own rules to place it on the June primary ballot rather than the November general ballot. Historically, voter turnout for the November election is nearly double that of the June primary. This adroit maneuver by the legislature has been described by Amendment C opponents as “dirty-pool.”

South Dakotan’s are proud of having the distinction of being the first state to adopt initiative and referendum on a statewide level (1898). The South Dakota’s state motto, “Under God, the People rule,” is in line with citizen desire for engagement on statewide ballot measures. For the past six years, more people have voted on ballot measures than the constitutional offices such as Secretary of State and Attorney General.

another effort in a longline of usurpations to the people’s will that the public would not tolerate.

Frustration has risen in recent years as political entities have stepped in to challenge voter-approved ballot measures. In addition, the legislature has revised sections within initiated measures after passage. While some ballot measures may need clarification and language clean-up after they have been approved by the voters, it should not be a routine occurrence. The key is to find the delicate balance of the harmony of laws and regulations while ensuring the voice of the people is respected. The legalization of medical marijuana is an example where the legislature revised the law but kept the voter’s desire to allow patient access to medical marijuana.

Amendment C sought to require a three-fifths vote for approval of ballot measures imposing taxes or fees, raising taxes or fees, or obligating an appropriation of $10 million or more in any of the five fiscal years. In practice, Amendment C would have raised the bar for ballot measure approval, and in certain scenarios, it could have required the public to have a higher bar for approval than the legislature.

The Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce publicly opposed Amendment C. We had serious concerns about placing a vote to change our state constitution in the primary election where voter participation is low and tends to be party-driven. At best this effort was misguided and at worst just wrong. To understand the full measure of why the Chamber opposed Amendment C, please refer to our Issue Brief on the Chamber’s Position page.

From the public perspective, another error of Amendment C was the effort to effectively quash ballot measures that are currently scheduled on the November 2022 ballot (Medicaid expansion and recreational marijuana). Amendment C was a preemptive strike to defeat these ballot measures as very few ballot measures pass with a 60 or greater passage rate in South Dakota.

Perhaps for some voters Amendment C was another effort in a longline of usurpations to the people’s will that the public would not tolerate. They overwhelmingly rejected it.

The votes cast by county provide insight to the defeat. While the total votes against Amendment C were 122,406 and the votes in favor were 59,122, the largest percentages of voter opposition came from predominately rural areas.

South Dakota had 19 counties that cast a vote of 70% or greater against Amendment C. The most populated of these counties is Hughes County, the home of state government. Proportionally, Hughes cast the largest number of votes against amendment C at 5,077. The next highest was Beadle County at 2,876.

Here are the 19 counties that voted to defeat Amendment C by 70% or greater: Beadle, Day, Dewey, Clark, Clay, Gregory, Hughes, Hyde, Jerauld, Kingsbury, Lake, Marshall, Miner, Oglala Lakota, Sanborn, Stanley, Todd and Yankton.

There were 31 counties that voted to defeat Amendment C by a 60-69% vote, including Lincoln (65%), Minnehaha (69%) and Pennington (66%). Only Douglas County voted in favor of Amendment C, they supported it at 52% (58 votes).

The voters have spoken and their sentiment about Amendment C was nearly unanimous. The Chamber’s position to oppose Amendment C aligned with the public sentiment across the state. The resounding rejection of Amendment C indicates our business community is in harmony with our community and the vast majority of South Dakotans. We are grateful to live in South Dakota where “Under God, the People rule.”