J.A.I.L. amendment proponents blame official for its failure
Advocates of the judicial accountability measure that met a resounding defeat by an 89 percent to 11 percent margin in the Nov. 7 election do not seem to be giving up.
They are accusing the South Dakota Legislature of corruption, the State Bar Association of deception and Attorney General Larry Long of misrepresentation.
And they suggest that their issue was a victim of election fraud. But Long says his critics need not blame, but instead credit South Dakota voters for studying the issue and making up their own mind.Bill Stegmeier, the South Dakota amendment sponsor from Tea, says the failed Judicial Accountability Initiated Law (J.A.I.L.) brought out the big guns to oppose them.
"To wit, the oil conglomerates, the banking cartel, and the multi-billion dollar national insurance industries. All these see a major threat to their imperial empires by placing power into the hands of us, the little guys (the People). Such could never be duplicated by emphasis on any other issue, including the tax movement. It is my judgment that these other focuses distract from truly hurting the mystical power-brokers who operate behind the scenes," Stegmeier says.Now he is serving notice to opponents not to underestimate them.
"As Arnold would say, 'We'll be back!"And next time, thanks to the lessons we have learned, our new Judicial Accountability Amendment will be bulletproof. And for good measure, we will also put on the ballot an amendment to outlaw computerized vote counting. And just because they have peeved us off, how about an amendment to require judges to inform the jury it has the right to judge the law as well as the accused's guilt or innocence? I think so!"
Accusations of voting fraud focus on the machines where ballots are then fed into Diebold computer machines that count the votes."I have no doubt that the vote was manipulated using the Diebold computers," Stegmeier said.
Ron Branson, a California resident who launched the idea and targeted South Dakota as the first place to test the amendment, uses an Internet Web site to blame Long for what he sees as a problem in the way the issue was handled."While certain words in the J.A.I.L. initiative should be clarified, such as spelling out who are 'judges' and who specifically 'are not judges,' we must not lose sight that when Attorney General Long's perverted ballot explanation was challenged in court, Judge (Max) Gors specifically stated that it may be that Larry Long's explanation did not go far enough and suggested that Larry Long could have justifiably stated that the entire purpose of Amendment E was to destroy the judiciary of South Dakota as a ballot explanation," Branson wrote. And he follows with a promise.
Says Branson, "Folks, there is no way to avoid this - except we now, as soon as possible, teach Larry Long a lesson, namely, that you do not fool around with perverted and false explanations for ballot issues."
Long says he didn't aid the defeat of the measure, known on the ballot as Amendment E."The South Dakota voters took their obligations seriously. They educated themselves and concluded that Amendment E was bad law and bad policy and voted it down," Long said.
The Attorney General's ballot explanation on E was correct and it told voters the truth about Amendment E, says Tom Barnett, head of the State Bar Association."It was also consistent with what Stegmeier and Branson had said previously about how far-reaching E would go. It was only after they discovered that voters didn't like suing school board members, county commissioners and the like that they changed their story. They sued Larry Long and Chris Nelson in circuit court, and the court made Larry change one or two words. They appealed that decision and lost. They were warned by LRC (Legislative Research Council) about the scope of their amendment and refused to change a word," Barnett said.
Proponents of Amendment E also were critical of pre-election polling done on the measure in terms of how they were conducted and the way some were worded. They offered a Zogby Poll taken not long before the election showing it would be approved by a substantial margin.
Barnett says polls showing the demise of the amendment were credible and oftentimes showed it would face a big defeat."In addition to our polls, there were four independent polls conducted by groups other than the No on E committee, which showed the same numbers (or within 2 points) of our polls," he said. "Thus, we knew the week before the election that Amendment E was going to be defeated by a 75 percent to 25 percent margin and the margin was increasing."
How does Branson plan to make an example of Long?"We can seek a federal indictment. This sets a record, creates an embarrassment for him, as well as demonstrates an effort to exhaust every effort for a remedy," Branson said.
Post-election controversy hangs over the Amendment E vote because of encouraging polling data that showed the issue winning. That is reflected in a memo by Stegmeier to supporters noting his concerns about the results of a Sept. 20 Zogby Poll commissioned by his group showing the issue winning 67 percent to 20 percent. Then a Nov. 4 KELO-TV poll showed proponents also winning by a 51 percent to 40 percent margin. But on Election Day, opponents won an overwhelming 89 percent to 11 percent victory.
That brought the J.A.I.L supporters to a decision to commission a post-election Zogby poll to see what the result would be.Stegmeier writes to supporters: "And what a surprise. To my na•ve amazement, their numbers had us losing by 90 percent to 10 percent, just like the election results."
So what comes next?
Says Stegmeier, "And what we need to do now is our own phone poll all across the state of South Dakota. If everyone helps with polling just 10 people, we will amass a huge poll count! Let's all get busy and see what turns up. (Here's a hint: Vote fraud!)"
Despite all the criticism of state officials, proponents still need to remember South Dakota voters are not sheep, and Larry Long does not go into the booth with them.
David Kranz's column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Call him at 331-2302 or write to him at the Argus Leader, Box 5034, Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5034.