In last November's election, 56 percent of South Dakota voters approved Initiated Measure 24.
The measure aims to restrict out-of-state contributions to South Dakota ballot question campaigns.
Earlier this year two lawsuits were filed to prevent IM 24 from becoming law — one by Aberdeen resident Cory Heidelberger and his political action committee, SD Voice, and the other by several lobbying groups.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles B. Kornmann heard testimony in both lawsuits on May 3 in Aberdeen. On May 9, he ruled that the measure "is unconstitutional because it violates First Amendment rights to engage in political speech and to associate with others to fund political speech" and "because it violates the Commerce Clause by interfering with the free flow of money between persons or entities from another state and ballot questions committees in South Dakota."
The voters who approved of the measure must have thought it seemed like a good idea, and its appeal is understandable.
"Keep South Dakota issues decided by South Dakotans." Sounds like a catchy slogan.
But here's the thing: South Dakota issues are always decided by South Dakotans. That's because they're the only ones allowed to vote in our state elections.
Sure, the specter of vast amounts of out-of-state money from special interest groups being used to influence public opinion ahead of elections can seem frightening.
But we have to remember that no matter how many TV commercials, radio and newspaper ads, billboards and lawn signs flood our daily lives, it's still your neighbor in the voting booth next to yours.
It's the neighbor who clears snow off your driveway when you're on vacation. It's your neighbor who offers to help out or loan you a tool when you're making a home repair. It's the neighbor who brings food to your door when a loved one dies. It's the neighbor whose kid walks to school with yours. It's the neighbor who sits next to you in church, who serves with you on the PTA, who cheers alongside you at the football game, and who is your nurse when you go to the emergency room.
It's everyone in your day-to-day life that you trust.
Do you really not trust them to sort through all the noise and make an informed decision on election day?
Perhaps some people think keeping out-of-state money out of our politics is just a good idea on principle, regardless of how much they trust their neighbors.
Speaking in support of IM 24 in a South Dakota Newspaper Association article last October, former-Gov. Dennis Daugaard compared the idea to federal election laws that prohibit influence from foreign governments.
It's hard to believe that he would compare our fellow Americans to foreign agents. They are citizens with the right to speak their minds and contribute to the causes they support anywhere in the country. Furthermore, the laws we enact in South Dakota will affect citizens of other states while they are traveling and conducting business in our state, and therefore, they deserve a chance to speak their minds in our political processes.
As Kornmann's ruling demonstrates, IM 24 violates some core principles on which our country is founded. More than that, however, IM 24 contradicts the kind of values we should strive to embody.
We should be open to new ideas, regardless of their origins and fairly evaluate their worth. We should work to foster a culture of inclusion in our state, making sure everyone knows they are heard and are welcome to contribute.
The last thing we should do is try to silence voices just because they are telling us something we don't want to hear or are coming from outside the state.
And, frankly, it should be un-South Dakotan.
— Aberdeen American News
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