Computer tablet displaying the word "Abortion" with a stethoscope draped over the corner

New group asks South Dakota abortion petition signers to rescind

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Kathleen Shannon

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(Greater Dakota News Service) South Dakota's Secretary of State received more than enough signatures to get a decision on abortion rights on the November ballot but some signees are now getting calls to rescind their support.

South Dakota currently outlaws all abortions except those to save the life of the mother. Secretary of State Monae Johnson recently validated a citizen ballot initiative to enshrine some protections to abortion in the state's constitution. The state is one of nineteen with a direct citizen initiative process but it might be the only one where initiative signatures can be removed.

PROMO Map - South Dakota State Map - iStock - klenger

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Samantha Chapman, advocacy manager for the ACLU of South Dakota, said it is due to a new law passed this spring with an emergency clause she contended was designed to block abortion access.

"Every single committee hearing that was had on this bill, the discussion was almost entirely and solely about this one singular abortion rights ballot measure, even though the law would obviously affect all ballot measures," Chapman pointed out.

The prime sponsor of the bill, Representative Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids, is also behind a new political action committee, South Dakota Petition Integrity, which began making calls to signers of the abortion initiative before the group was registered with the state, leading Secretary of State Johnson to release an official warning of potential scams.

Paid ballot circulators who collected signatures for the abortion rights initiative had to apply and register with the state and carry a badge with an ID number. To rescind a signature, a signer must send a notarized letter to the state. There are no requirements for people asking signers to rescind their signatures.

"There's so many requirements that petition circulators have to adhere to," Chapman emphasized. "And so there's just not the same level of scrutiny and standards that are applied to the reversal of your signature."

According to the Secretary of State's website, the office does not track how many signatures have been rescinded but makes the information available to parties involved in any court challenge.