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In this June 2018 file photo, A view of the polling booths at Faith Lutheran Church around 4:30 p.m. Faith Lutheran was one of three locations that had voting times slightly extended, until 7:20 p.m., due to some issues with electronic pollbooks. (Dave Askins/Capital Journal)

As South Dakotans go to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Constitutional Amendment W, or the South Dakota Voter Protection and Anti-Corruption Act, has been among the most contested issues for several candidates and incumbents.

Speaking during a joint State Senate and State House of Representatives candidate forum Oct. 25, South Dakota District 24 Representative Tim Rounds (R) voiced his opinion on the issue.

“This is a bad idea,” he said, responding to a question on his thoughts about the amendment. “It legalizes corruption. If you’ve got a conflict of interest it allows you to vote.”

Rounds wasn’t the only legislator to take aim at the amendment. State Senator Jeff Monroe (R) also dismissed the amendment, calling it ‘unconstitutional’ and added that not enough voters would actually read the amendment.

Some officials feel very strongly about Amendment W, potentially due to the amendment’s effect on campaigning and raising campaign money in future elections.

Amendment W is designed to put caps and restrictions to campaign contributions, in hopes that outside influences won’t have an impact on South Dakotan issues. It’s a proposal in the mold of Initiated Measure 22, which South Dakota voters voted to approve in 2016, but was later repealed by South Dakota legislature.

Amendment W would cap campaign contributions for different races. The proposed limits would be $500 for state House candidates and candidates for local office, $750 for state Senate candidates, $1500 for every other legislative position except for governor and finally $4000 for gubernatorial candidates.

Additionally, the Amendment would put in a place a board of seven appointed members to replace the government accountability board, which has been in place since 2017.

This was directly addressed by Monroe and District 24 Rep. Mary Duvall (R).

Monroe said the board would be a tribunal that would turn into ‘judge, jury and executioner.’

“It’s badly written, far too broad, and it creates this standalone tribunal with unimaginable powers that go way too far,” Duvall said. She added that while advocates of the amendment think that Pierre is corrupt, she does not.

Rounds, Monroe and Duvall were all opposed to Amendment W. But Amanda Bachmann (D), Monroe’s opponent for the State Senate seat, supported Amendment W as a citizen-driven proposal.

“I support citizens being involved in the process,” she said, adding that IM 22 was the ‘will of the people.’

The Amendment is over 3300 words long, and contains several stipulations and new guidelines, with the anti-corruption board and the campaign contributions being the some of the most contentious. Amendment W would also change South Dakota’s initiative and referendum process. If it were to pass, any repeals of citizen initiatives (like IM 22 in 2016) would be subject to voter approval.

The anti-corruption board would consist of seven appointed members - two former or retired judges registered to different major parties, appointed by the South Dakota Supreme Court. The governor would select one member from a three proposed members submitted by the Speaker of the House, and one member from three proposed members proposed by the House Minority Leader. The final three members would be voted on by the four previous appointments.

Each member would serve a four-year term, with a two-term limit. To stagger the terms, the Secretary of State would randomly select one member to serve a one-year term, and two members each to serve two, three and four year terms respectively. This prevents more than three seats being up at one time.

Rounds asserted that because the number of independently-affiliated voters in South Dakota is rising, one major party could be pushed off the board, arguing that independents could become the second largest voting group in the state.

In a recent poll conducted by the Argus Leader and KELO TV, prospective voters supported Amendment W 43 to 32 percent, with the remaining group undecided.

The issue won’t be decided until Tuesday, Nov. 6. If passed, it has the potential to be a major change in the South Dakota legislative process.

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