Federal judge blocks Minnehaha County restrictions on petition circulators
The temporary restraining order is in response to a lawsuit filed Wednesday that contends the policy is a free speech violation.
SIOUX FALLS – A federal judge has temporarily blocked a policy recently approved by the Minnehaha County Commission that would have restricted where petition circulators could gather signatures near two county buildings in downtown Sioux Falls.
U.S. District Court Judge Roberto Lange issued the restraining order on Thursday, May 11, after the policy was challenged by Dakotans for Health, a ballot committee that is circulating petitions to put two questions before voters in 2024.
The group, led by Rick and Adam Weiland, wants to amend the state constitution to give women access to abortion previously guaranteed under the landmark Roe v. Wade case that was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
A second petition would initiate a law to repeal the state’s sales tax on food.
Minnehaha County Auditor Leah Anderson proposed the restrictions because she said there had been problems, such as people blocking the entrances to the county administration building and courthouse while gathering signatures.
The county commission approved the policy change on May 2.
Dakotans for Health filed suit in federal court on Wednesday, May 10, arguing that restricting circulators was a violation of the protection of core political speech guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"South Dakota has a longstanding tradition of circulating petitions and collecting signatures to enact laws and constitutional changes through the citizen initiative process. These new rules severely obstruct that activity and undermine direct democracy and free speech,” Rick Weiland said in a statement following Lange’s ruling.
The temporary order is in effect for 14 days during which a preliminary injunction will be scheduled.