SOUTH DAKOTA DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND CANDIDATE WIN LAWSUIT AGAINST SECRETARY OF STATE
Sioux Falls, SD – (May 8, 2020) A Sixth Judicial Circuit Court in Pierre found for the South Dakota Democratic Party and their candidate, Justyn Hauck after the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office refused to file the candidate’s petitions and certify his name as a Democratic candidate for state senate, legislative district 13.
Specifically, Secretary of State Steve Barnett argued that because Hauck was registered to vote in legislative district 14 at the time he signed his declaration of candidacy to run in district 13, his declaration was invalid. However, Hauck’s registration would have been changed to district 13 prior to signing his declaration but for the confusion regarding how to submit registration forms to the Minnehaha County Auditor, Bob Litz in light of the county administration building’s closure due to COVID-19. He deposited his registration forms in a dropbox as instructed by the Auditor but did so after regular business hours. It was only after depositing his registration form in that dropbox that he signed his declaration of candidacy.
“Democracy works best when the people of South Dakota have choices at the ballot box. The SDDP is committed to ensuring that our citizens who elect to participate in the democratic process as a candidate are not refused access to the ballot because of technicalities or an overly rigid interpretation of the rules. Mr. Hauck took all the appropriate actions needed to become a candidate. COVID-19 created an unusual situation and should not prevent him from being an option for the voters of his district.” – Randy Seiler, Chair, SDDP
Hauck and the South Dakota Democratic Party filed an application for a writ of mandamus to compel the Secretary of State to certify Hauck’s candidacy. On Tuesday, May 5, 2020 the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court in Pierre granted that application. The Judge sided with Hauck and the Democratic Party, determining that the Secretary of State’s requirement regarding Hauck’s voter registration was not supported by law. Rather, South Dakota law requires two specific requirements of persons who sign a declaration of candidacy. First, they must reside in the district in which they seek to run. Second, they must be a registered voter with the party whose nomination they seek. At the time he signed his declaration of candidacy, Hauck resided in district 13 and was validly registered to vote as a Democrat, albeit at his previous address in district 14. As such, Hauck’s declaration of candidacy fully complied with the law and the Secretary of State had no legal authority to resist certifying his candidacy.
The Judge further determined that even if there was a requirement that Hauck be registered to vote in the district he sought to run in, his actions would constitute substantial compliance with such a requirement. The Judge recognized that Hauck’s voter registration had not been updated prior to signing his declaration only because of circumstances arising from an unprecedented public health crisis. Moreover, the South Dakota Legislature has made a policy decision that “the laws of this state pertaining to primary elections shall be liberally construed so that the real will of the voters may not be defeated by a mere technicality.” The Secretary of State’s decision was ultimately incompatible with that legislative mandate.
For further information on this matter, contact:
Randy Seiler, Chair, SDDP 605-222-8877 or firstname.lastname@example.org.