Joyce Scott made hundreds of phone calls and knocked on countless doors, helping persuade South Dakota voters to approve a ballot measure last year tightening campaign contribution limits and creating a government ethics watchdog. Republican lawmakers quickly torched the new rules this year and instead are seeking changes that would make it far tougher for residents to bypass the statehouse at all. Scott and others angry about the swift repeal of the voter-backed anti-corruption initiative have turned to the 2018 ballot, hoping to enact a new constitutional amendment that even the Legislature can’t touch. “I was disgusted that we had to go through this again,” said Scott, a 75-year-old Democrat who collected signatures for the new campaign after seeing lawmakers dismantle the first ethics package. “We had already told them once what we wanted.”
Legislatures from the Dakotas to Maine this year brushed aside voter measures, some working to hamper citizens’ ability to pass ballot questions. In 2018 and beyond, states including Ohio, Maine, Missouri and the Dakotas could tussle over the states’ ballot question systems.
The power struggle between the people and politicians is particularly stark in South Dakota, where supporters of new constitutional protections for ballot measures are competing against lawmakers who would curtail them.