Summary of meeting July 10, 2024

Our speaker was Anny Libengood.  After nearly two decades working for Minnehaha County, she’s now running for Commissioner.  Example of her tenacity: She only needed 50 signatures to get on the ballot as a Democrat.  She screwed up and sent it to the wrong place.  Had to try again as an Independent… that required over 700 signatures, but she did it.  The SDSU grad and licensed social worker is very mindful of vulnerable populations. She thinks the Grocery Tax Repeal could actually help the County in that so much County money goes toward the poor and, if they get relief, so could the County.  She is in favor of zero-based budgeting and remains uncertain about the Home Rule Charter, though she recognizes that without it, many County resources remain outside of the Commission’s control. “Those two decades being on the front lines of Minnehaha County gave me a unique and intimate look into behind-the-scenes operations.” Anny’s website is HERE.

Summary of meeting June 26, 2024

The pro Open Primaries position was presented to Change Agents by Jeanelle Lust and Joe Kirby. https://www.sdopenprimaries.org/

Our speakers contended that 82 percent of Democrats in SD support this top-two open primary ballot initiative. No one has stepped up against it and Republicans have softened to the initiative. If our state wants more moderates elected, supporters believe this is the best way to achieve that. They noted the extremely poor turnout at the recent SD primary, less than 17% of the electorate… and much lower for registered Democrats.  This is common in super majority states.  The majority party always wins and those not registered with that party are essentially disenfranchised from voting, while the minority party never wins in the general, so their voters, dispirited, stay home. And the ever increasing share of Independents in the population end up locked out entirely. Low-turnout midterm primaries erode the credibility of U.S. democracy and may allow more-extreme candidates to reach general elections and attain office.

There are almost 20 states with Open Primaries, but fewer with top-two Open Primaries, which is what is being proposed for SD.  While he was governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced the top-two Open Primary to California.  Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Iowa (all SD neighbors) have Open Primaries, but none of them is the top-two being proposed here. Neighbor Nebraska does use the top-two for its in-state races.

Lust and Kirby maintain that overall voting numbers will certainly improve if SD adopts the Open Primary.  Stats show that states with open primaries do have higher turnout. They’ve also talked with SDNewsWatch. The legislative research council estimated that implementing the measure would cost about $23,000 per year. In addition, 50,000 additional ballots will need to be printed. Some believe these numbers underestimate the increase in voter participation. The state constitution will need to be changed if this passes.

To delve deeper into the statistics surrounding Open Primaries, the Bipartisan Policy Center has an easy-to-read study of all primaries nationwide in 2022 with ideas how to boost poor voter participation. Especially note page 16.

Summary of meeting June 12, 2024

Quincy and Zeb, organizers of the pro-recreational marijuana effort, came to our meeting to discuss the recreational marijuana measure that will be on the November ballot. One of the things they will focus on with this marijuana effort is to persuade folks to get out and vote. A big voter turnout is needed to make this happen. They are happy there are other initiatives on the November ballot because more choices will bring out more voters.

SDBML (South Dakota for Better Marijuana laws) a nonprofit political organization working to improve cannabis laws in South Dakota.  The SDBML states “On June 3, 2024, we received official word from the Secretary of State that our cannabis legalization initiative qualified for the November 5, 2024 ballot! Our initiative will be Measure 29.” See the link https://sdbml.org/text to “read or download the full text of the proposed ballot initiative to legalize cannabis for adults aged 21 and over in South Dakota.” The revenue from the marijuana taxes will be decided by the legislature and could be a help for addiction and drug programs.  But where the tax money for cannabis goes in the state is up to the legislature.

Our discussions with our members on this topic involved what other states had legal cannabis, issues with legalization and how they overcame them.  Also, members had questions concerning driving or working under the influence of cannabis.  It did not seem like members knew of how to address cannabis use while driving or in the workplace. Concern was discussed about the criminal groups or cartels coming into the state once cannabis is legal.  Many of the folks attending felt the governor would squash the bill. We will do both sides of this issue and continue conversations on this.

Summary of meeting June 19, 2024

Sandra Henry, District 14 SD Senate candidate was our guest. Sandra comes from a family that was very active in the community and remembers her dad’s concern about who would take care of “the little guy”.  She was in education and special education for most of her career. Education is her passion.  If elected, Sandra wants to listen, solve problems and create common ground. She has been inspired by the political women leaders in Sioux Falls. Some of these leaders called her and asked her to run for office. Sandra has already been going door to door to introduce herself to her community.  She wants to hear what the constituents have to say. Her opponent in the November elections is incumbent Larry Zikmund. Unafraid of tackling big issues, she would like to continue the workmen’s compensation bill to extend filing time to 7 to 10 days.  Last year Democrats tried to get the extension expanded to 30 days, but failed.  She is still considering open primaries and is leaning toward supporting it.  The difficulty is that in some areas we may not have a Democrat or Independent as the top 2 candidates.  Sandra supports a recreational marijuana bill while still maintaining the safety of children.   She is passionate about getting a stronger mental health presence in public schools. She has had discussions with people in the community who have done things such as community PTA.  She also has a strong interest in tribal matters.  Sandra thinks her district is winnable and wants to draw a contrast between herself and Larry Zigmund by using mobile billboards, the media, and her door-to-door visits. https://www.sandraforsenate.org/

Open Discussion

We discussed and concluded that we will invite both sides of an issue to our meetings.  We need to listen respectfully to both sides. Then our members also had a discussion about auditor Leah Anderson and the hand counting of all the primary votes.  We can watch the hand count that will take place on June 25th.  Auditor Anderson has claimed that she has heard from a number of residents about the June primary.   She will do a hand count for all the June elections.  Many in our group were concerned about the November elections if this is happening already.  We use paper ballots in SD but use voting machines to count the ballots.  The County Auditor cannot do away with the voting machine as there is a contract with the providers of the machines.  The County Auditor is elected by the people, yet the only person that can remove her is the governor.  We can call up the county commissioners and let them know how we feel about the hand counts.  The Auditor has a group of supporters that come to every county commission meeting. Should we go to some of these meetings to show our concerns about voting?  The Minnehaha County Commission meetings are Tuesdays at 9AM on the first, third and fourth weeks of every month. The Minnehaha County Commission office is located at 415 N. Dakota and the phone number is 605-367-4220.  Here is a link to be an election worker or volunteer for elections.

Summary of meeting June 4, 2024

Over the summer, Change Agents will be inviting candidates in the upcoming November elections and inviting folks on both sides of the issues that will be on the ballot. We want to review the record of bills and votes they have made in this legislative session and this information will be shared with the members at a meeting.  We had discussions on how our candidate conversations should be handled. Next week will be our meeting to discuss the recreational marijuana issue that will be on the November ballot. A pro issue representative will be there.

Summary of meeting May 29, 2024

At the May 29 meeting of Change Agents, Bill Linsenmeyer talked about his candidacy for House District 11. He noted the carbon pipeline was a primary reason for his quest for office, not because he opposes Eminent Domain, but that he opposes the use of it on behalf of a private company. A former employee of the U.S. State Department, he mentioned more than once that he is more attuned to Libertarian views, but there is no such primary. View his page at https://southdakota11.com/

Early voting is going on now. Election day is Tuesday June 4th.

Summary of meeting May 15, 2024

Spent the hour with candidates Taylor Rehfeldt and Cole Heisey.

Rehfeldt (R) is an incumbent in a crowded primary for District 14 House.  She thinks the current SD law on abortion is too vague, more education is required, yet the current House membership refuses any serious discussion on the issue.  She supports Medicaid work requirements.  She had no position on the Open Primaries issue.  Her website: https://www.taylorrehfeldt.com/  For her voting record: https://sdlegislature.gov/Legislators/Profile/3799/Bills

Heisey (R) is running for Minnehaha County Commissioner in another crowded primary.  He has run twice for the SD House, coming up short both times.  He supports stewardship of the environment.  He supports cutting property taxes yet offered no alternative solutions for government funding.  He indicated strongly that he is an election denier and has the endorsement of South Dakota First.  His campaign page is inaccessible (as of May 20th), but there is a recent article about him in The Dakota Scout: https://www.thedakotascout.com/p/cole-heisey-for-minnehaha-county

Our Pre-Primary Election Post May 24, 2024

The plan was to interview all the Republican candidates for the South Dakota House seats in Districts 11 and 14, and also the candidates for the Minnehaha County Commission. Our goal was to listen and ask questions to learn of the priorities and beliefs of those seeking to represent us. We would then decide which of those candidates we believed should get Republican support in the primary to face Democrats in the Fall election. We would then communicate with you our collective thinking.

The plan didn’t work.

Minnehaha County Commission candidate Roger Russell did not respond to several text and voicemail messages.

District 14 candidate Tony Kayser cancelled. When asked, he chose not to attempt to reschedule.

District 11 candidates Keri Weems and John Kunnari reported scheduling conflicts.

But we did talk to these folks:

In District 14, Taylor Rehfeldt and Tyler Tordsen. Both incumbents. Both communicated well.

In District 11, Brian Mulder is the incumbent. He does not think we need changes in the state’s abortion ban and he indicated non-support for opening the primaries to all voters.

In the County Commission race, incumbent Dean Karsky indicated support for working to create a Home Rule Charter, which could streamline county government. Voter approval is required. He indicated a decision on the Fairgrounds is a long way away. More stakeholder involvement needed.

Commission candidate Cole Heisey pointed out his conservative beliefs. Talked holding down property taxes and indicated no support for a Home Rule Charter. He stated doubts about the 2020 election results. Refers to himself as a “New Republican” and expressed strong support for Donald Trump.

County Commission Candidate Dan Kippley expressed the need for the County to plan ahead. Way ahead. Fifty years out. He mentioned the fairgrounds as an example. He also expressed support for creating a Home Rule Charter for voters to consider.

***These observations are not meant to be all encompassing. They are snippets of longer conversations.

We urge you to educate yourself.  It’s important to know how the incumbents voted on issues which affect us.

For the challengers, it’s important to know their philosophy and priorities on the issues facing all of us.

The election is June 4th.   Early voting is going on now.

Thanks for reading this, we hope it is helpful.

On behalf of Change Agents of SD, I’m Rick Knobe