The South Dakota House of Representatives approved House Joint Resolution 5003 on February 16 in a vote of 56-12.
The measure would amend the state constitution to require a three-fifths (60%) vote for approval of any ballot measures (whether citizen-initiated or legislatively referred) that imposes or increases taxes or fees or appropriates $10 million or more in any of the first five fiscal years after enactment.
South Dakota residents may initiate legislation as either a state statute or a constitutional amendment. The South Dakota State Legislature may place measures on the ballot as legislatively referred constitutional amendments or legislatively referred state statutes with a simple majority vote of each chamber. As of 2021, all ballot measures in South Dakota required a simple majority vote (50%+1) to be adopted.
HJR 5003 was introduced into the South Dakota House of Representatives by Republican Speaker Pro Tempore Jon Hansen on February 2, 2021. All eight House Democrats voted against the bill. Of 62 House Republicans, 56 voted in favor, four voted against, and two were excused. To be placed on the 2022 ballot, the amendment must receive 18 affirmative votes in the South Dakota State Senate, in which Republicans hold a 32-3 supermajority. To become a part of the state constitution, a simple majority of voters must approve the change.
The South Dakota State Senate has passed three other bills this month concerning citizen initiative requirements:
- Senate Bill 77, which was designed to require initiative petitions to print the full text in 14-point font;
- Senate Bill 86, which was designed to require the South Dakota Secretary of State and Attorney General to issue an opinion to sponsors of initiative constitutional amendments concerning whether or not the amendment comprises a single subject and whether or not the proposed change is considered a constitutional amendment or a revision of the state constitution; and
- Senate Bill 123, which was designed to create a 10-day comment period for ballot language of citizen initiatives, requiring the attorney general to review all comments and amend the ballot language as deemed necessary.
These bills would take effect if approved in the state House, where Republicans hold a 62-8 supermajority and do not require voter approval.
Republican sponsors of the bills pointed to the legal challenges to Amendment A, a constitutional initiative approved by voters in 2020 to legalize marijuana, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Hughes County Circuit Court and appealed to the state supreme court.
Senator Reynold Nesiba, one of three Democratic Senators in South Dakota, said, “This is a systematic attack by the Republican party to stifle direct democracy in South Dakota.”
Vote requirements for ballot measures vary from state to state and based on different ballot measure types and topics.
As of 2021, South Dakota was one of 37 states that required a simple majority vote (50%+1) for a proposed constitutional amendment to be adopted. Below are some of the other requirements that ballot measures face across the country.
In Nevada, a simple majority vote is required for all constitutional amendments, however, initiated constitutional amendments must be approved by voters at two successive general elections.
Constitutional amendments in Colorado require a 55% supermajority vote for approval, except for amendments that repeal language and do not amend or add language, which require a simple majority. This supermajority requirement was adopted in 2016 through a citizen initiative.
Constitutional amendments in Florida (citizen-initiated and legislatively referred) must receive a supermajority vote of 60% of those voting on the question, according to Section 5 of Article XI. This change was made via a legislatively referred constitutional amendment in 2006.
In Illinois, legislatively referred constitutional amendments must receive a supermajority vote of 60% of those voting on the question or a majority of those who cast a ballot for any office in that election.
In New Hampshire, a proposed amendment must be approved by two-thirds (66.67%) of those voting in order to become part of the state’s constitution.
In seven other states, there are requirements based on turnout at the election or for a particular office, such as governor.
In Washington, a 60 percent supermajority vote for any measure concerning gambling. Utah requires a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote for the approval of any initiatives concerning the taking of wildlife.
A total of 67 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in South Dakota during the 20-year from 2000 through 2020 in South Dakota, of which, 43% (29 of 67) were approved by voters and 57% (38 of 67) were defeated.