FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE : Tuesday, May 06, 2014
CONTACT: Sara Rabern (605)773-3215
Office of Attorney General to Review U.S. Senate Nominating Petitions
for Potential Criminal Violations
PIERRE, S.D – Attorney General Marty Jackley confirmed today that Secretary of State Jason Gant has asked the Office of Attorney General to review several petitions submitted by candidates for United States Senate for potential violations of criminal law that are outside the authority of the Secretary of State. Based on the authority granted to the Secretary of State to supervise elections, the Secretary of State’s Office reviewed and approved the nominating petitions submitted by the candidates. Given this approval, the candidates do appear on the ballot in the November election. See, SD Const. Art. VII, § 3; SDCL §12-1-14 (“The person in charge of the election shall verify the information contained in the affidavit filed pursuant to §12-1-13 and make a written declaration regarding the validity of the signature in question.”).
“Election complaints received from the Secretary of State will be reviewed for potential criminal violations, and any issues having merit will be further investigated. Because the review involves a federal election, I have discussed these matters with United States Attorney Brendan Johnson, and we are in agreement that any investigation into potential violations should not affect this election as the voters not prosecutors should determine the election outcome,” said Jackley.
The courts have made it clear that any investigation into potential criminal violations of law should not affect an election if at all possible. Many violations of election laws do not rise to the level of criminal misconduct. The public interest favors minimizing interference in elections. See, e.g., South Dakota State Federation of Labor AFL-CIO v. Jackley, 2010 S.D. 62 ¶ 11-12, 786 N.W.2d 372, 376-377; St. Germain v. U.S. Department of Interior, 2013 WL 3148332 (W.D. Wash.). In addition, the time frames associated with investigating and taking further criminal action, if any, concerning these petition matters would exceed the time frames associated with appearance on the November ballot. This includes the presumption of innocence and the 180 day speedy trial right. As a result, further review of a candidate’s petition does not affect that Secretary of State’s certification of the candidate to appear on the ballot.