Election petition circulators allowed in two spots on Minnehaha County campus under new policy
County auditor says that the increasing numbers of people seeking signatures for political campaigns and some problems prompted the restrictions.
SIOUX FALLS — Minnehaha County is putting new restrictions on where people can gather signatures for political petitions, such as initiatives and referendums, around two buildings at its main location in downtown Sioux Falls.
Auditor Leah Anderson told the Minnehaha County Commission on Tuesday, May 2, that an increase in the number of signature seekers and some issues led to the adoption of a new policy. Anderson said there have been problems with people standing inside entryways and a case where a man set up a table with petitions and then left, neither of which are allowed.
Going forward, there will be two areas where petition circulators will be allowed to gather.
One will be in the Minnesota Avenue parking lot on the west side of the administration building, about 25 feet from the main entry where residents often enter to take care of automobile registration, voting and other county business.
The other will be adjacent to the county courthouse on the south sidewalk but away from the two stairways that lead to the main entryway.
“We need better control of activities that take place on our campus,” Anderson said.
She said the current overall “public use” policy was too vague.
Anderson said there are the First Amendment guarantees for the activity, but that access to the county buildings and safety are the main issues for limiting where it can take place.
Residents using the designated areas must also check in with the county auditor’s office prior to conducting political activity. They will be informed they can approach individuals to ask them to sign a petition but only in the designated areas.
Anderson also said the policy calls for people to conduct themselves in a polite, courteous and professional manner, including honoring an individual’s right to decline to sign a petition.
In the event of severe weather, petition gatherers or other conducting political activity may seek refuge inside the administration building but must cease conducting their business.
During early voting and on Election Day, no political activity will be allowed on the county campus.