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Being a citizen: “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” – Thomas Jefferson

Does it seem like it’s hard work these days being a responsible citizen?

I’m referring to the five ballot issues to be decided in less than two weeks.

Five isn’t a big number, especially compared to California, where voters in 2016 considered 17 ballot measures, not that South Dakota would ever use the former Golden State as a beacon.

But this year voters must navigate a winding and sometimes muddy road lined with conflicting signposts.

Let’s start with the constitutional amendments:

Amendment W – This proposal would add more than 3,000 words to the South Dakota Constitution and establish yet another government board – non-elected – and funded with nearly $400,000 in tax dollars. The premise for W is that the state is rife with corruption. Don’t believe it. Yes, there have been some scandals – EB-5 and GEAR UP – but they don’t represent how business is handled in Pierre. There are some bad apples in the South Dakota barrel – but not many. If passed, W likely will be challenged on constitutional grounds.

     Amendment X – Simple majorities are generally a cornerstone of democracies. And yet, over time, South Dakotans have determined that in some cases, such as tax increases or school bond issues, a higher standard is reasonable. Even changing the U.S. Constitution requires a two thirds vote by congress and ratification by three quarters of the states. This amendment boosts the approval required to modify the state constitution to 55 percent, a modest but positive change.

     Amendment Z — If passed, this amendment would make life easier for voters because it would limit proposed changes to the South Dakota Constitution to a single subject. What has happened in the past is that a proposal is brought forward that contains numerous subjects. Voters must then weigh one against the other. Better that changes be concise and clear.

     Initiated Measure 24 – This is a tougher one. It proposes to ban out-of-state money in campaigns. Gov. Dennis Daugaard is an advocate of this measure, pointing out that in 2016, there were seven initiated measures and six were largely funded and promoted by out-of-state interests.  That is a persuasive argument. Opponents argue that the measure could be challenged on constitutional grounds if it passes. Perhaps a court decision would be in order to clarify this complex issue.

Initiated Measure 25 – Another difficult call. This measure increases the state tax on tobacco products. I had some trouble with that one, and still do, though I’m leaning for it.

Oct. 24, 2018