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Committee approves bill to require larger type for initiated measure petitions
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Committee approves bill to require larger type for initiated measure petitions

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PIERRE | Petition signers will see larger print if SB77 becomes law. The bill was approved Thursday morning by the House Local Government Committee.

SB77 requires 14-point font to be used on petitions that seek to get constitutional amendments or initiated measures on the ballot.

Rep. Carl Perry, R-Aberdeen, showed the committee a copy of an Initiated Measure 26 petition, a lengthy measure with smaller type on the petition.

“It’s not in the voters’ best interest,” Perry said of the type on the IM26 petition. “The font makes it more readable.”

Kea Warne, an election official with the Secretary of State, said that office supports the larger font size on petitions.

“We just wanted to have a font size that all petitions must meet,” Warne said.

Koni Sims, representing the South Dakota Association for the Blind, endorsed the larger font size. “It’s not huge, but it’s readable.”

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Sims, who said she is legally blind, has never looked at a petition. “I have never looked at one because I know I can’t read it,” Sims said.

Speaking in opposition to SB77 was Rebecca Turk of Dakota Rural Action. Turk told the committee that if the larger font size is needed on petitions, perhaps it should be used on all government documents.

“This accessibility needs to be much broader than simply the text on an initiated measure,” Turk said.

Perry agreed that perhaps government documents could be printed in a larger font size but tried to keep the committee focused on the bill.

Passage of SB77 “will make it so that the voters of South Dakota know what they’re signing,” Perry said.

Initiated measures and constitutional amendment petitions must be printed on a single sheet of paper including room for signatures. Rep. Tim Reed, R-Brookings, said he served on an election task force that looked at some of the larger petitions including one so large they called it a “bath towel.”

Rep. Ryan Cwach, D-Yankton, noted the extra expense petition carriers would face having to print their petitions on large single sheets of paper. He also noted that the petition process doesn’t always include a lot of reading.

“They talk to you. They make their pitch,” Cwach said of petition carriers he has met on the street. “That’s how the petition process works practically.”

The committee approved the bill on a 12-1 vote. It now goes to the full House.

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