Media Contact

Janna Farley,

February 21, 2023

Tomorrow, the House State Affairs Committee will consider a bill that would authorize legislative intervention into certain cases pertaining to election law.

Senate Bill 116 would require that the South Dakota Legislature’s Executive Board receive notice of any state or federal lawsuit regarding the constitutionality or validity of South Dakota’s election laws and then decide whether to become involved.

The ACLU of South Dakota opposes Senate Bill 116. Injecting the state legislature into lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of election laws threaten judicial independence by limiting courts’ power and injects politics into state judiciaries.

“One essential function of our state courts is to guard against legislative efforts to weaken democracy,” said Samantha Chapman, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “Senate Bill 116 leaves voting rights at risk and weakens a critical check against abuses of power during our elections. The ability of voters to fight back using the legal system should not be undermined.”

Additionally, Senate Bill 116 would disproportionately affect Native voters. Native voters most often challenge election laws in South Dakota because the suppressive voting laws affect the voting rights of Native people and communities. Senate Bill 116 creates extra steps to challenge these election laws, making it longer, more expensive and more difficult for Native voters to pursue justice and equal representation.

“Unsurprisingly, the bill that gives unprecedented power to legislators was proposed by those same lawmakers,” Chapman said. “This is ultimately a heavy-handed power grab by politicians who are not satisfied with the role that they were elected to fill.”

About the ACLU of South Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.

The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people.  In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.