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Bow hunting of deer inside the city limits and the elimination of runoff elections are a step closer to becoming a reality.

Both proposals were approved at their first reading during Monday's council meeting. They will be voted on for a final time following second council readings, scheduled for Aug. 19.

The council split over a plan to carve out an exception in Rapid City's ban on bow and arrow use, but the measure ultimately passed 6-3 with Councilman Lance Lehman absent for the vote.

Voting nay was Council President Laura Armstrong and council members Lisa Modrick and Bill Evans, who both said bow hunting is cruel.

"The last thing I'd like to see is a deer running through somebody's backyard with an arrow through its neck and a child observing this," Evans said.

Echoing Modrick and Evans' concerns was Nancy Hilding, president of the Prairie Hills Audubon Society of Western South Dakota. During the meeting, Hilding said the conservation group opposed the program out of concern for animals.

The rules and details of the hunting program will be established by a related resolution being developed with the state Game, Fish and Parks Department. The council will vote on that resolution later this month.

The program would supplement the existing deer harvest now carried out by professional sharpshooters and partly funded by two local groups, Sportsmen Against Hunger and Black Hills Sportsmen. A similar bow hunting program was instituted in Sioux Falls several years ago. According to a draft of the resolution, hunters would be allowed in three proposed zones in forested parts of town.

Hunters would have to apply for permits that will be distributed through a random drawing. At this time, only 21 permits are planned, each allowing a hunter to kill one deer. The proposed hunting season would consist of seven separate 14-day sessions that would be held from late September to late December.

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Both the bow hunting program and the repeal of runoff elections have been touted by city officials as ways to save taxpayer dollars. Controlling the deer population also stands to limit the property damage and car collisions they cause, supporters say.

It costs about $25,000, meanwhile, in advertising, paperwork and staffing expenses to hold a runoff election, according the city Finance Office. Runoff elections are held when no candidate in a race for municipal office garners a majority of votes.

That threshold is maintained by an ordinance that the council now weighs repealing. Since it was enacted in 2009, South Dakota did away with a law requiring it for cities with populations of 50,000 or more. Ten runoff elections have been held in that span. In each, the same candidate won both races.

City attorneys have pointed out that runoff elections see poorer turnout than first-round elections.

Speaking on behalf of local political group South Dakota Citizens for Liberty, Tonchi Weaver criticized the proposal as stifling voter's voices.

"Just because it hasn't happened in the last 10 years," she said, "is no good reason to eliminate that process."

Similarly, Councilman John Roberts expressed a concern during the meeting that repealing the threshold and requirement for runoffs amounted to voter disenfranchisement. His was the sole vote against the measure.

Several council members who supported the measure said holding only one election could create more urgency for voters to participate.

If the repeal goes through, Rapid City can defer to state law and declare candidates who receive the most votes to be the winner. The requirement for runoff elections that South Dakota once required only applied to Rapid City to begin with, City Finance Director Pauline Sumption said during the meeting.

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— Contact Matthew Guerry at matthew.guerry@rapidcityjournal.com

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