Election Bill Bingo in the State Capitol

Warning: It is “Hoghouse Time” in Pierre as the session runs to conclusion in six legislative days.

Even experienced legislators like four-term Democratic Sen. Reynold Nesiba from Sioux Falls can be surprised.

Wednesday before the House State Affairs Committee, Nesiba wanted to table–essentially kill–SB123, a bill that would have required the state board of elections to meet each year, review the state’s election laws, and make recommendations.

Normally, that is a courtesy he would have received. Except today.

Instead of tabling the bill as Nesiba requested, the House co-sponsor, Republican Rep. Kirk Chaffee from Whitewood refused and hoghoused–heavily amended the bill–into a measure about voter registration timelines and requirements.

Chaffee has been working on a version of the bill through the session.

The major change is that it increases the amount of time that a voter has to be a resident of the state from 15 to 30 days.

A number of county auditors in attendance opposed the bill and said that the existing 15 days in law was workable. A representative of the ACLU said that change also disenfranchises new residents of South Dakota.

Democratic Rep. Erin Healy from Sioux Falls, a committee member, took offense to the process.

“I am really angry right now this maneuver that we just saw in this room is incredibly disheartening,” Healy said. “Other people who have brought bills who have had a hog house bill have been granted the ability to have a tabled bill because their bill was no longer in the format that that they believed in.”

She also had concerns about the impact the bill could have on legislators trusting each other.

“It makes me wonder if I can bring a bill next year and trust that this process will work,” Healy said. “And it makes me think twice about who I can have as a sponsor, I am so angry about this.”

Earlier in the session, the committee had tabled Pierre Republican Sen. Jim Mehlhaff’s SB13 on gubernatorial candidates picking their own lieutenant governor running mates instead of having a political convention select them. Mehlhaff requested that the bill be tabled as it no longer carried his intentions.

That bill had been hoghoused into a bill that allowed gubernatorial candidates to select their own running mates that but added having the attorney general and secretary of state candidates selected via primary instead of at the party conventions.

The committee complied with Republican Melhaff’s request.

Democrat Nesiba was expecting the same treatment on his bill.

Committee chair, Republican Rep. Will Mortenson from Fort Pierre, said this situation was different, as the co-sponsor did not want the bill tabled. Further, Chaffee’s hoghouse amendment had been posted on the Legislative Research Council’s website for about five days, so there was notice. Mortenson also said Nesiba’s idea for the election board to meet yearly about election laws also remained as a section of the reconstituted bill.

With that, the committee passed the bill 9 to 4, with both Democrats on the committee voting against it and even picking up two Republican votes.

The now heavily amended SB177 now moves to the House for further consideration.