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Judge rules SD smoking ban goes to public vote

Publication Date: 2009-11-13
  • Author:CHET BROKAW
  • Publication:The Daily Republic

Opponents of South Dakota's new smoking ban have gathered enough petition signatures to put the measure to a statewide public vote next year, a circuit judge ruled Friday.

After hearing testimony in a two-day trial, Circuit Judge Kathleen Trandahl found that opponents of the ban had collected 2,244 more signatures than they needed to force a public vote. She granted the opponents' request to order Secretary of State Chris Nelson to place the smoking ban on the November 2010 ballot.

Nelson and officials of the American Cancer Society, who argued the measure should not be on the ballot, said they will decide whether to appeal Trandahl's ruling to the South Dakota Supreme Court.
Trandahl noted that the secretary of state must decide whether to count signatures based on strict compliance with laws and regulations, but the courts have the discretion to decide when those who gather petition signatures have substantially complied with the laws and rules.

The judge counted more than 2,000 signatures Nelson had thrown out because the notaries public who witnessed the signatures of those who circulated those petition sheets had written incorrect or incomplete dates for when their notary commissions expired. She also counted hundreds of signatures with other technical errors.

In some cases, Trandahl said the challenged signatures met legal requirements. In others, she said signatures would count because circulators and notary publics had substantially complied with the law.

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