South dakota editorial roundup

The Associated Press

Aberdeen American News: Oct. 25, 2012

All information needed when voting

The secretary of state is charged with making sure the election process runs smoothly in the state.

On that count, Jason Gant failed in one significant way this cycle.

Gant did not put "pro" and "con" statements about measures on the statewide election ballot. Circuit Judge Mark Barnett said South Dakota law directs that the secretary of state shall perform that duty.

Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, sued the state for not including the "con" statement on the ballot for Constitutional Amendment P, which requires South Dakota's governor to propose a balanced budget.

Amendment P was one of four constitutional amendments that did not include a "con" statement. The "pro" statement for Amendment P was submitted by Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Gant's defense was a line in state law that said statements from proponents and opponents should be included "if any can be identified."

In this case, Gant clearly didn't work very hard to identify the opponents.

Gant says he sent 51 letters to state officials, including some in the Legislature.

The secretary of state has done many things right during his tenure, including access to information on a website that is intuitive for anyone in the state to use.

A more thorough search should be made, including Gant's secretary of state website, for instance, soliciting "pro" and "con" statements ˜ or, at the very least, using that to solicit likely parties.

More effort should be made during the legislative season to alert lawmakers that, if particular laws make it to vote on the ballot, that their opinions could be necessary and welcome.

Reaching out to party heads to find their own statements is also a simple but likely effective way to ID those statements.

Unfortunately, thousands in the state have already voted without the benefit of those con statements explained on their ballots.

Judge Barnett was wise to note, "The failure to get complete information out to the first 16,000 (voters) does not somehow negate the obligation to get this legislative-directed information, the other side of the coin, out to the rest of the voters."

He ruled that the pamphlets must be reprinted, so at least voters at this stage of the process, at least, are able to get a clear understanding of the pluses and minuses of an initiative.

Gant is tasked with making sure every candidate and ballot measure is on the ballot legally and fairly. By excluding these statements, voters are getting only part of the information necessary to make wise decisions when they are in the booth.

Watertown Public Opinion: Oct. 25, 2012

Learn the facts, voter

One of the worst things voters can do during an election is to take anything they see or hear at face value. Keep in mind that political speeches, advertisements, mailings and other forms of campaigning are all designed to make a point in favor of the person saying whatever is being said. And also keep in mind that point is designed for the sole purpose of benefitting whatever person or cause it is supporting; as a result, truth is often clouded.

P.O. Capital Correspondent Bob Mercer brought that point home the other day in one of his blog items that appear on the Public Opinion's website. Mercer referenced a TV?ad in support of Initiated Measure 15 which seeks to raise the state sales tax by a penny and divide the money between education and Medicaid.

The speaker claims that when video lottery was approved by voters that the money was intended for education funding. The problem is that's not the case. True, when the debate about video lottery was going on, a lot of people assumed the money was going to go to education. The problem is the state never made such a promise. The Legislature refused to dedicate lottery money to education because they had seen the experiences in other states where lottery revenue started high and tailed off. Further, as a result of the 1994 property-tax revolt, the Janklow administration passed a 30 percent property tax freeze and used proceeds from video lottery revenues to replace lost property taxes for schools.

Voters need to remember whether the issue is an initiated measure, a referendum, a constitutional amendment or a candidate, those speaking publicly either for or against it are making a point supporting their own point of view. As a result they will make the strongest selling point possible to convince people to come around to their way of thinking and support their position. They are not trying to be objective and there's nothing wrong with that. They are supporting a position that in their opinion is the right one and are trying to convince as many people as possible to agree with them.

In the end, the final decision is up to the voter and it's the voter's obligation to decide what is in their own best interests, and those of others, when it comes time to decide how to cast their vote on whatever item is before them. That's why it's important we all inform ourselves as best we can on the issues at hand and make our decisions on an objective basis instead of relying on one-sided pitches supporting one cause or another. Know the facts, both pro and con, before casting your vote. It's in your own best interests.

Watertown Public Opinion: Oct. 11, 2012

Part of the process

South Dakota is getting ready for two executions in the coming weeks. Barring last-minute legal twists involving inmates Eric Robert and Donald Moeller, both of whom have said they're ready to die, South Dakota will carry out the final steps in its death penalty process for the first time since 2007 when Elijah Page was executed for his role in the torture and killing of a 19-year-old man seven years prior. He, too, asked to die. That execution was the first in the state in 60 years.

This month Robert and Moeller are scheduled to meet a similar fate; Robert for killing a prison guard during a failed prison break and Moeller for kidnapping, raping and murdering a 9-year-old girl. Robert is scheduled to die sometime next week and Moeller two or three weeks later.

There are no concerns in either case about the possibility of executing an innocent man, which may have happened in other states around the country. Both men have admitted their guilt, both have said the penalty is just and both are ready to die. And a lot of people believe they should die for the crimes they committed. It's tough to argue with their reasons for thinking that way and yet there is still something about the process that bothers a lot of people.

Perhaps it's the clinical nature of the execution process. Walking someone down a hall to an enclosed room; laying them down on a gurney and strapping them to it, and inserting the needle — or needles — into the condemned man's arm to administer a lethal dose of a controlled substance. Outside the room are witnesses selected to watch the execution. They are there for a variety of reasons; either to cover the story for the media, to see justice done for the victim's family or to make sure the proper rules and protocols are followed. It's a precise process and something Robert and Moeller both want to happen.

And yet many of us wonder, both supporters and opponents of the death penalty. The guilty are gone and so are the victims yet the grief the crimes caused still lingers. Nothing will ever bring the dead back or completely eliminate the grief. Those are absolutes that cannot be changed.

But many people wonder if events like South Dakota will experience in the next few weeks will have an impact other than on those involved. Will anything really change? Will crimes like these become obsolete??Will the deaths of these two deter others from committing similar crimes? In the end we may not get whatever answers we are seeking but the questions raised are worth thinking about. Like everything else in the death penalty, it's all part of the process.

___

The Daily Republic, Mitchell. Oct. 9, 2012

If not in rural SD, where?

Aurora County is on the hook for a $1.2 million payout to farmers who say the county inappropriately thwarted their efforts to expand their dairy business.

In Hanson County, residents this year successfully stalled a planned dairy that would have been built north of Alexandria.

Things sure have changed in the world of agriculture, and we're just not sure where we stand as 21st century farming gets under way.

We are certain of one thing: Big ag business on the great and heretofore wide open prairies could be in trouble.

In Aurora County, the farmers — members of the Thompson family — claimed successfully that a 1998 zoning ordinance adopted by the county and the county's later 2001 denial of a building permit inappropriately prohibited their business plans.

Recently, the settlement amount was reached, and Aurora County taxpayers — not the insurance company, thanks to county officials' failure to provide timely notice of the litigation — will pay the settlement through the aid of bonds.

In Hanson County, backers of a controversial dairy pulled back their request for a water permit. That move came after staunch opposition against the dairy, mostly from residents in Hanson County.

Today, we aren't taking sides. We understand that people get nervous about large development, and especially in their own backyards. And once those big projects are built, they aren't going anywhere.

Neighbors have a right to be edgy.

But both of these cases tend to show that future development of large agricultural operations may be in jeopardy, since county officials and rural residents alike are showing trends of fierce opposition.

Today, our only question is this: If farmers, ranchers and rural developers cannot operate their businesses in the country and once appropriate rural areas, where can they do it?

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