Progress Report On Smoking Ban Petition

South Dakota’s state-wide cigarettes online buy ban is getting closer to either becoming law or going to a vote.

The Secretary of State’s office has now spent six days going through signatures after the Tobacco Free Kids Network questioned whether enough of the signatures collected by ban opponents are legitimate.

Secretary of State Chris Nelson and three others are combing through some 9,800 signatures that were red-flagged by smoking ban proponents. Nelson says the process will take time.

Four workers are going through 383 pages of questionable signatures. They’re about a quarter of the way through.

“Because on a number of lines they’re claiming that the person is either not registered or an inactive voter and so on each of these claims we have to verify that against the database,” Nelson said.

If there’s still a question, the Secretary of State’s Office then contacts the county where the voter is registered.

“This is what we call a non-judicial challenge, it’s never occurred on a statewide ballot issue before so this is a little bit of new territory for us,” Nelson said.

Nelson wouldn’t comment on how many of the signatures have turned up to be invalid, but did say not all of the red-flagged signatures will be thrown-out.

“It’s fair to say that not all of the 8,800 or 8,900 of the challenged signatures are bad but they certainly aren’t all good either,” Nelson said.

And once the verification process in complete, the issue may eventually be decided by a judge.

“From there…whichever side loses out at that point certainly has a right to go to court,” Nelson said.

Smoking ban opponents needed about 17,000 valid signatures on their petition to put the ban to a public vote. The group tuned in nearly 25,000 signatures two weeks ago.


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