We’re only a few days into 2024, and this year is already shaping up to be an impactful one in the world of politics. The American people are hungry for change and true representation, and the people of South Dakota are no exception.
As of December 1, 2023, 87,976 of the state’s 597,680 registered voters were listed as independents. That’s in addition to nearly 60,000 voters with no party affiliation (NPA) and 3,858 voters who are registered third-party or “other.”
Independent and Good Party certified candidates are making their mark in state and local politics across our country, and they can have an impact on the political landscape in South Dakota as well by the end of this critical 2024 election season.
South Dakota's voting history and political leanings can be characterized by its strong inclination towards the Republican Party. In fact, Republicans in South Dakotan have had a trifecta of state executives since the mid-nineties, with the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature tightly under Republican control.
If you’re curious about the political history of South Dakota, here are some key aspects of voting in the Mount Rushmore State:
Republican Dominance in Federal Elections: South Dakota has predominantly supported Republican candidates in presidential elections for many years. This trend has been consistent since the 1960s, with the exception of 1964 when the state voted for Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson. In recent elections, Republican presidential candidates have won the state with significant margins.
Congressional Representation: South Dakota’s congressional delegation has also been largely Republican. This includes its two U.S. Senate seats and its single at-large House seat. While there have been periods of Democratic representation (most notably by Senators George McGovern and Tom Daschle, and Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin), Republicans have held a steady control in recent years.
State Government: At the state level, the Republican Party has had a stronghold on the governorship and the state legislature for decades. This dominance reflects the state's conservative leanings on many policy issues.
Social and Fiscal Conservatism: The political culture in South Dakota tends to lean conservative, particularly on social and fiscal issues. This is reflected in the state's policies and legislative priorities, which often emphasize limited government, low taxes, and traditional social values.
Rural Influence: The state's rural character also plays a significant role in its political leanings. Rural areas in the United States, including those in South Dakota, often tend to be more conservative, and this is reflected in the state's overall political orientation.
Native American Influence: South Dakota has a significant Native American population, particularly in areas like the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations. These communities tend to vote Democratic and are influential in certain local and state elections, though their impact is less pronounced in statewide federal elections due to the overall Republican majority in the state.
Despite the trend of Republican dominance, South Dakota voters have shown an independent streak at times. Independent candidates whose priorities align with those of South Dakota voters could have a strong chance of victory in local elections across the state in 2024. Keep in mind that voters often support candidates who are seen as moderates or mavericks, regardless of their party affiliation.
The best representatives are those who are in tune with their constituents and work hard to address issues that matter to voters in their area, whether they’re elected to the local school board, the governorship, or the presidency of the United States.
In South Dakota, key issues for voters in 2024 include:
Budget Development: A primary concern is the formulation of a budget that is agreeable to both the legislature and the governor.
Carbon Pipelines: This is expected to be a significant topic in the South Dakota Legislature.
Education: There's a strong focus on education, with an emphasis on both funding and policy.
Workforce Challenges: Addressing workforce issues spans various sectors, including education, nursing homes, hospitals, long-term care, and manufacturing.
One big issue that continues to concern citizens and lawmakers alike is the problem of Standing Rock. A primary concern of the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes is the potential contamination of their primary water source due to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which travels underneath the Missouri River and Lake Oahe.
The tribes have been protesting in various ways, including court advocacy and digital campaigns, since the closure of the Oceti Sakowin camp in 2017. Despite some legal victories, the pipeline continues to operate, posing a significant threat to the tribes, especially in the event of oil spills.
The concept of independent politics is far from new to South Dakotans. Although there has been a long period of time since an independent of note has made a splash in this state, the time is ripe for change.
One notable independent candidate was B. Thomas Marking, who ran for the U.S. House in 2010. His performance in that election was significant. He received 6% of the vote, the largest amount of support directed to an independent or third-party U.S. House candidate in South Dakota in 80 years.
Before Marking, the last independent candidate to achieve similar success was Henry Bormann in 1930, who won 15.3% of the vote. Marking had extensive experience in government service and proposed an innovative Advisory Voting System that allowed voters to have a direct say in his voting decisions.
However, despite his qualifications and fresh ideas, Marking feels that his campaign showed that a highly qualified candidate still faces immense challenges competing outside the two-party system in South Dakota.
Could the next South Dakota independent politician be you?
The American political climate is one of dissatisfaction with politics as usual. Despite the conservative leanings of the majority of South Dakota voters, there are good reasons that an independent can make an impact on the political landscape in that great state.
Here are 10 of the best:
South Dakota's unique political landscape offers independent candidates a distinct opportunity. Unlike other states with heavily entrenched party systems, South Dakota's electorate is known for its independent streak. This environment can be more receptive to candidates who aren't bound by traditional party ideologies.
There's a rising trend of voter dissatisfaction with the two major parties across the US, and South Dakota is no exception. A strategic, targeted independent campaign can tap into this sentiment, attracting voters who are looking for fresh, non-partisan perspectives.
South Dakota, with its smaller population, allows independent candidates to have a more significant impact on policy. Your ideas and policies have a better chance of being heard and making a tangible difference at both the local and state levels.
Independent candidates often attract media attention for breaking the traditional two-party narrative. This can provide valuable exposure, helping to amplify your campaign messages and policy proposals.
As an independent candidate, you have the freedom to address issues and engage with communities that are often overlooked by the major parties. This can include focusing on rural issues, Native American rights, or other specific local concerns that are underrepresented in the mainstream political discourse.
Without the constraints of a major party platform, you have greater flexibility in shaping your campaign strategy. This allows for innovative approaches to campaigning, such as grassroots mobilization, digital outreach, and unconventional policy platforms.
An independent campaign in South Dakota can attract support from a broad political spectrum. According to the latest information, voters identifying as independents or unaffiliated now outnumber registered Democrats in the state, and that number is now nearly half of those who identify as Republicans. By focusing on non-partisan issues and solutions, you can appeal to Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike.
Running a successful independent campaign in South Dakota could set a precedent for future elections, inspiring others and potentially reshaping the state's political dynamics. Your campaign could be a catalyst for change, encouraging more independent and third-party candidates in the future.
Independent campaigning allows you to build a personal brand unattached to the baggage of major parties. This can be particularly advantageous if your long-term goals include influencing public policy, whether in elected office or through other avenues.
Finally, as an independent candidate, you have a unique opportunity to build a direct connection with voters, free from party rhetoric and partisanship. This can lead to more authentic engagement and a deeper understanding of the electorate's needs and aspirations.
Now that you have some inspiration to run as an independent in South Dakota, here are some offices that are up for election this year:
In addition to the presidential election and the U.S. House of Representatives, there are several state and local offices that are up for grabs. U.S. Senators were elected during the 2022 midterms, as were the governor, lieutenant governor, state treasurer, and attorney general of South Dakota.
Here's a breakdown of some of the state and local offices, including non-partisan positions. As for state executive positions, South Dakotans are looking for new representatives in their state house and senate in 2024. They will also be electing members for the South Dakota Supreme Court.
Locally, various jurisdictions are looking for county commissioners, state attorneys, and treasurers. Water Development District Directors are needed in seven jurisdictions in 2024. All of these positions but the director of Central Plains Area 7, who is elected for two years, carry four-year terms. These are non-partisan offices whose only qualifications are that the candidate is 18 years of age, is registered in the district they’re running in, and has gathered 25 petition signatures.
The city of Brookings is looking for a new mayor and two city council members. Aberdeen, South Dakota is also electing a new mayor and a city council member to represent the NW District. Both of these positions are for five-year terms.
There are county coroners, treasurers, and CFOs (Chief Financial Officers) needed, and these will be nominated during the primaries. South Dakotans will also elect a Conservation District Supervisor, a Public Utilities Commission, and Heartland Consumer Power district directors.
Further information about specific local and county elections can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.
In South Dakota, prospective candidates for any office can begin circulating petitions on January 1, 2024. The primaries are on June 4, 2024, and the general election is on November 5, 2024.
With the filing deadline for independent candidates in most races on April 30, 2024, it's crucial to begin your campaign preparations early. Election law in South Dakota requires candidates to file a Statement of Organization 15 days before filing your candidacy. Absentee balloting for the primaries begins on April 19, 2024.
Municipal and school elections are often managed on a combined ballot, and the election day for those seats is on April 9, 2024. Petitions can begin circulating on January 26, 2024, and the filing deadline is on February 24, 2024.
Since the majority of these elected offices are non-partisan, you can feel empowered to embrace the unique opportunities that running as an independent in South Dakota presents.
Your candidacy could make a significant impact in the 2024 elections!
Are you a South Dakotan with a vision for a better future and a passion for change? Don't let the constraints of traditional party politics hold you back. Join Good Party Academy today and take the first step towards launching your independent campaign.
With our guidance, you can navigate the unique political landscape of South Dakota, connect with voters who share your vision, and make a lasting impact. Remember, the filing deadline is April 30, 2024. The time to act is now!