If you believe in any cause, like the right to vote, the right to speak publicly about the government, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Equality, Marijuana legalization, ANYTHING it doesn’t really matter — if you believe the FIRST AMENDMENT is the foundation to our democracy then listen up! 

The Minnehaha County Commission is meeting today to discuss the presence of petition gatherers outside the doorway 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 the South Dakota Coalition for Compassion 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.


******* I support the right of citizens to gather petition signatures on the County Admin and Courthouse property! *******

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!



Emmett Reistroffer

By l3wis

10 thoughts on “Limiting Petitioners?”
  1. Sorry I cannot be there to support this. I would be happy to carry legislation that would ensure such Constitutional rights are protected from such encroachment. Regardless of the issue, voters should always be welcome on their public property, when they peacefully assemble to seek redress from their government. Good luck & God speed.
    Rep. Stace Nelson

  2. Emmett, if someone can’t be at the meeting, where can they sign your petition at?

  3. Amanda, he is standing outside the Minnehaha County Administration buidling until 12:30 today.

  4. First, the city took away your rights. Now, the county. Soon, the state. It’s no wonder guns and ammo are flying off the shelves.

  5. The smaller – the more local the government – the more likely the petite tyrants are to infringe on individual rights. Many – no make that most or maybe even ALL small town city councils fail to follow even thier own rules for due process and other government actions – like open meetings. THEY are more the reason open meetings laws were enacted than is the state. It has been ever this. The Federal government has been the FIRST and LAST defender of individual rights. If you attack the idea of the Federal Government – you attack the very rights that you enjoy – more than at any other level of governance. There is NOTHING in any state constitution or local government ordinance that protects your individual rights Make no mistake – the “states rights” – the “small weak federal government” promoters are NOT on the side of individual liberties or freedoms. Don’t be fooled.

  6. I will have to applaud Emmett, his Press Release today I think put up the red flags. For now, things are going to stay the way they are. No changes to procedure. Actually, some improvements may be considered, like fixing the ADA access to the building. I am actually happy that ‘some’ commissioners brought this up, because in the end, petioners may have it better in the future.

  7. It’s funny you say that rufus… I have often thought that if it were not for the protections afforded us from the Federal Government we would be in a lot of trouble, so I totally agree with your sentiment.

    Prime example – just look at what North Carolina has proposed last week… They want to declare an official state religion effectively so that they can continue to blur the lines between religion and government – and to make matters worse they even suggested they are sovereign and that the federal government has no authority over them.

    Amazing. Absurd… but amazing. Imagine being a resident of North Carolina and having your elected leaders threaten to take away your Constitutional freedoms merely because a majority of them happen to be from a specific religion? Surely that will end well right?

    To make matters worse – North Carolina isn’t exactly alone here. We’ve seen similar cases of states trampling Constitutional rights time and time again – so yes it does seem at least in the case of protecting our rights… we do have to rely upon the Federal Government and/or groups like the ACLU.

    Here is an interesting read on the subject: http://ideas.time.com/2013/04/08/can-u-s-states-have-official-religions/

  8. The old political cliche… “You can’t fight City Hall” was not created just by chance. It speaks to the potential and often inevitable tyranny of local governments as aforementioned.

  9. I often sit in the back at meetings like this, close to the door. I do it, so I can see the rats flow in and out before anyone catches them. This happened today. I found it a little ‘strange’ that the leader of the SD Democratic party came to this meeting. Not at first, I figured he was there to support the petition process, and was kinda impressed. But once he scanned the room, he realized he was surrounded by dems, republicans and indies. He seemed to leave rather quickly without testifying. I guess I could go on a big rant about ‘party people’ but I wont. i will say this. The people that were there today were passionate about the process, not a party line, and we need more of that.

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