From Ballot Access News:
A South Dakota state constitutional amendment is being circulated to make all offices in South Dakota non-partisan, except for President. All candidates would run in June, and then the top two vote-getters would run in November. No party labels would be on the ballot, except for President. Here is the text of the amendment.
The wording seems to mandate write-in space on all South Dakota ballots. South Dakota is one of four states that has never permitted write-in votes (the others are Oklahoma, Hawaii, and Nevada). The initiative, which would be in the State Constitution if it passed, says, “Each qualified voter is guaranteed the unrestricted right to vote for the qualified candidate of the voter’s choice in all elections.” Presumably “qualified” means a candidate who meets the constitutional qualifications to hold the office. In November 2014, South Dakota voters were not permitted to vote for Curtis Strong, the Constitution Party candidate for Governor, because he wasn’t on the ballot. But under the terms of the initiative, it would seem South Dakota could not prevent anyone from voting for Strong at either the primary or the general, and therefore would be required to provide write-in space.
The initiative says the two candidates who get the most votes appear on the November ballot, but it does not say what happens if only one person is on the primary ballot. Presumably that one candidate would again run in November.
Current law defines qualified party to be one that submits a petition, or which polled 2.5% of the vote for Governor in the last election. If this initiative passed, the Democratic and Republican Parties would no longer be ballot-qualified. Presumably if the initiative passed, the legislature would amend the definition of “party” to be based on the group’s vote for President at the last election. Alternatively, the definition of “party” might be based on the number of registered voters in a party. But then the state would be forced to let voters register into parties that had never before been qualified, and the state would need to tally these registrations. South Dakota does tally the number of voters in parties that are not now qualified by which were ballot-qualified in the preceding few years.
South Dakota parties now elect precinct party officials at the primary, but this initiative would eliminate such public elections. For that reason alone, it seems likely the two major parties will campaign against this initiative if it gets on the ballot. Thanks to Andy Jacobs for the link.