The Minnehaha County Commission is meeting today to discuss the presence of petition gatherers outside the doorwayÂ at the County Admin building & Courthouse. Today’s meeting is just for discussion at 1pm, but a formal policy to restrict or ban petitioning could be voted on at the Commission’s weekly meeting tomorrow morning, 9AM in the Commission chambers (courthouse), and that meeting will be open to public input.
The County admin building is frequented by thousands of citizens on a weekly basis, to renew drivers’ licenses, car registration, voter registration, pay fines, file civil claims, and many, many more functions of the government that citizens are entitled. The County Admin building and courthouse are by far the best place to gather petition signatures from registered voters.
The First Amendment guarantees the right to all American citizens to petition the government for redress of grievances. This right is under serious attack at the national and state level, and now today, at our local County level. If we cannot petition the government in a taxpayer-funded town square to refer policies/legislation or propose our own ideas that affect everyone in the community, then our rights to petition the government and peacefully assemble are seriously infringed upon. Our founding fathers decided these rights were so important they put them in the First Amendment of the Constitution along with freedom of speech and religion, and there’s no excuse why these rights should be “restricted” or banned in a public place.
When I collected petition signatures for theÂ South Dakota Coalition for CompassionÂ in 2010, I got about 1-200 signatures each day outside the courthouse. This grassroots effort was successful after 6 months of collecting 33,000 signatures from around the state, and the vast majority of those signatures came from outside the County Admin building in Sioux Falls. The County Admin building in Rapid City was the second most productive location! With out these locations for collecting signatures I seriously doubt there is any real ability to collect enough signatures for statewide initiatives – SD is a rural and spread-out state without a lot of high foot traffic areas, we’re a driving community. I explored every idea, went to so many events, door-to-door, and tried the DMV, the library, the post office and any imaginable public place – and no other place was/is as productive (or appropriate) as the County Admin building. Mind you, it’s also very convenient for citizens to register to vote at the County building to be eligible to sign petitions.
IF YOU CAN HELP SAVE THE VALUABLE RIGHT TO PETITION IN OUR COMMUNITY – PLEASE COME TO THE COUNTY ADMIN BUILDING (WEST DOORS FACING SZECHWANZ) FROM 9:30AM – 12:30PM AND SIGN MY IMPROMPTU PETITION! This petition is a simple statement:
*******Â I support the right of citizens to gather petition signatures on the County Admin and Courthouse property!Â *******
My goal is to collect 100 signatures before today’s meeting, and 200 signatures before tomorrows meeting. The impromptu petition has no formal effect but will send a clear message to the County Commissioners.
Here’s a flashback to my 19-year-old self getting started in activism, by collecting petition signatures to put medical marijuana on the ballot! Enjoy!