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League of Women Voters File Lawsuit Against South Dakota’s Senate Bill 180

Press Release / Last Updated:

PIERRE, SD — Today, the League of Women Voters of South Dakota and the League of Women Voters of the United States filed a federal lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 180, a law that places a 30-day residency requirement for ballot initiative signature collection.

"Our state has a proud history of voter engagement through ballot initiatives,” said Cheryl Otto, President of the League of Women Voters of South Dakota. “To place a residency requirement on petition circulators, especially a limitation that would prevent registered voters from circulating petitions on things on which they are entitled to vote, makes it unnecessarily harder for voters to learn about ballot measures on important issues affecting their communities.” 

“The ability for individuals to engage in ballot signature collection is a pinnacle civic engagement activity that should be encouraged and not restricted,” said Celina Stewart, League of Women Voters chief counsel and senior director of advocacy and litigation. “Efforts to restrict voter engagement in this way are an attack on voting rights and only serve to endanger true participation in our democracy, all the while frustrating the non-partisan mission of the League to empower an informed electorate.”

Passed in the South Dakota legislature in 2020, Senate Bill 180 amended the definition of “petition circulator” to require residency in the state for at least thirty days prior to petitioning. Plaintiffs filed this complaint to prohibit South Dakota state officials from enforcing the law, which violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution as well as the South Dakota Constitution by harming Plaintiffs’ right to engage in political speech.  

“Ballot initiatives are a crucial component of citizen participation in state government, providing the electorate with the ability to consider and vote on critical issues,” said Steptoe & Johnson partner Michael Dockterman. “We are proud to partner with the League of Women Voters in their efforts to protect their core political speech and those of citizens inside and outside South Dakota.”

The case is brought by the League of Women Voters of South Dakota and the League of Women Voters of the United States. Plaintiffs are represented by Steptoe and Johnson LLP and local counsel Heidepriem, Purtell, Siegel, Hinrichs. 

 

Read the complaint here

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PRESS CONTACT: LaQuita Howard | 202-843-0573 | [email protected]

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