Heidelberger wants judge to block law on ballot measures

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota political activist wants a federal judge to block a new law that would place requirements on groups promoting ballot measures.

Cory Heidelberger, Aberdeen, requested a court order Monday to prevent a bill passed by state lawmakers from taking effect. The bill passed in the last session and is set to become part of South Dakota’s election laws on July 1, 2020.

Heidelberger, a Democrat, argues the bill was intended to make it harder for groups to launch successful ballot measures, the Argus Leader reported. Those measures have been one of the few successes for Democrats in South Dakota for a decade.

According to the lawsuit, the bill “imposes substantial unwarranted new restrictions on the ballot measure process, for the purpose of further consolidating power in South Dakota’s dominant political party, by making it far harder for disfavored speakers to place ballot measures before the voters, and by attempting to control the content of ideas from which voters may choose.”

Among the new requirements, petition circulators would have to register with the secretary of state by providing personal information, including their address, occupation and contact information. Paid circulators must pay a $20 registration fee.

The law also requires the secretary of state to issue a badge to registered circulators which they are then required to wear while collecting signatures. The badge identifies the ballot measure as well as if the circulator is paid or a volunteer. Signatures collected by circulators who submit bad information or who miss filing deadlines would be invalid. Heidelberger contends the requirement invalidating signatures is unfair and an attempt to squelch political speech.

The lawsuit names Gov. Kristi Noem, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg and Secretary of State Steve Barnett, all Republicans.

In May, Heidelberger succeeded in getting an initiated measure that South Dakota voters passed in 2018 declared invalid. That measure placed restrictions on out-of-state money on ballot measures.