Media Contact

Janna Farley,

February 28, 2024

The Senate State Affairs Committee today voted to advance a bill that would weaken South Dakota’s citizen-led initiative process.

The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1244, legislation that would establish a process for withdrawing signatures from petitions for initiated measures, initiated constitutional amendments and referendums.

South Dakotans are well-versed in direct democracy. The state was the first in the nation to adopt an initiative and referendum process in 1898, giving citizens the power to propose and approve laws under which they live. In 1972, citizens were given the ability to petition for constitutional amendments to be added to the ballot.

“South Dakota laws already place significant requirements on how ballot measures are publicly presented,” said Samantha Chapman, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “South Dakotans only use the citizen initiative process if the state legislature is not accountable to the voters. House Bill 1244 infringes on citizens’ rights to gather the thousands of petition signatures necessary to place questions on statewide ballots. Our legislators should be doing everything they can to encourage people to participate in democracy, not try to thwart it.”

In 2009, the Florida Supreme Court said the state’s signature revocation law, similar House Bill 1244, was unconstitutional.

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.