A South Dakota legislator challenged U.S. Senate candidate Annette Bosworth’s nomination petition late last week, only to file a motion to dismiss the challenge Monday morning.
Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls, filed an affidavit requesting the Hughes County Court issue a writ of prohibition against Bosworth’s candidacy. The writ would have required Secretary of State Jason Gant to “desist or refrain from accepting the nomination” of Bosworth, according to documents Hickey filed April 10.
Hickey’s move comes after liberal blogger Corey Heidelberger challenged Bosworth's nomination petitions earlier this month. Heidelberger claimed in an affidavit sent to Gant on April 1 that both Bosworth and Chad Haber, who also circulated petitions for Bosworth, were on a mission trip to the Philippines. Heidelberger noted that Bosworth and Haber submitted petitions, under oath, which said they personally collected signatures on the same dates as the mission trip.
“Bosworth’s and Haber’s violations of their circulator’s oath further casts doubt on the validity of all other petition sheets circulated by Bosworth and Haber,” Heidelberger’s affidavit said.
In addition to challenging the signatures, Heidelberger used the Voter Information Portal on the Secretary of State’s website and claimed he found that Bosworth was not a registered Republican.
Gant responded to Heidelberger in a letter dated April 5, saying the Secretary did not have statutory authority to investigate the claim regarding Bosworth’s presence for the questioned petitions. Gant sent copies of the documents to Attorney General Marty Jackley.
On April 7, Jackley sent a letter to Gant saying the Attorney General’s office had no “statutory authority over the administration of elections or the determination of the verification of signatures.”
Jackley concluded the only action his office could take would be to review a prohibition filed in court.
Hickey used Heidelberger’s evidence and filed a writ of prohibition in Hughes County last week, submitting 53 pages of documents in support of his affidavit. The writ would have required Gant to appear before Circuit Court Judge Mark Barnett on April 18, after election ballots were printed April 16.
Hickey, however, said he filed a motion to dismiss the writ Monday morning. He said he was hoping for a ruling prior to the ballots being printed.
“The issue is the deadline,” Hickey said.
Barnett said April 18 was the earliest date available in his schedule. In addition, he said, the writ of prohibition wasn’t served to Gant’s office on Friday.
“By the time they could get served, the ballots would have to be printed,” Barnett said.
Election ballots must be delivered to the county auditor by April 18, which means they would have to be printed today, he said.
“Had it been served, we’d have found a way to have that hearing,” Barnett said. “But we didn’t get to that because it wasn’t served.”
When reached for comment, Gant said the Attorney General handles all legal matters.
“There has been nothing to say that Bosworth should not be on the ballot,” he said. “She will be on the ballot.”
Hickey said in a statement posted on Heidelberger’s blog, “The ever-growing list of dubious things in the Bosworth candidacy left unchallenged only undermine the integrity of the process and public confidence which effects all of us in public office or seeking it. And, I do think it would be a win for the state GOP for the public to see we are willing to clean our house once in a while.”
Bosworth campaign coordinator Daniel Freeman said, “The South Dakota Secretary of State, Attorney General, and now Judge Barnett have all agreed that our petitions are valid. Dr. Bosworth is grateful this distraction is over and looks forward to talking about the issues with the voters of South Dakota.”