On August 30, U.S. District Court Judge Roberto Lange ruled from the bench in De La Fuente v Krebs, 3:16cv-3035. He said the state cannot invalidate signatures because the signer failed to fill in the “county” blank. The rationale is that no city or town in South Dakota is partly in one county and party in another. Therefore, the Secretary of State can easily know which county the signer lives in, by seeing what town or city the signer shows. The Secretary of State uses random sampling so the validation process is not very difficult for a petition that only requires 2,775 valid signatures.
But Judge Lange upheld another restriction, which is that sheets of signatures are entirely invalid if the Notary Public made a technical error when notarizing that sheet. De La Fuente had argued that notarization is not needed. But in South Dakota, notaries don’t charge to process ballot access petitions, so the judge felt that the notarization requirement is not a severe burden.
De La Fuente doesn’t quite have enough valid signatures, even though he won on the issue of signatures without a county listed. The case remains alive and it is likely De La Fuente will amend his complaint to also attack the South Dakota ban on out-of-state circulators for candidate petitions. It will be difficult for South Dakota to defend that restriction, because South Dakota allows out-of-state circulators to work on a petition to qualify a new party.
Author: Richard Winger
Publisher: Ballot Access News
Date: August 31, 2016