South Dakota Elected Officials
Know your Elected Officials
Population (2000 Census)_____754,844
and Symbols of South Dakota - - - -
The State of
South Dakota was acquired by the United States through the Louisiana
Purchase in 1803. Nine states were eventually organized out of the
Louisiana Territory. In 1861, President James Buchanan signed the Organic
Act creating the Dakota Territory. Twenty-eight years later, in 1889, the
Omnibus Bill or Enabling Act was adopted by Congress which provided for
dividing the Dakota Territory into the states of North and South Dakota and
enabled the two Dakotas, Montana and Washington to formulate constitutions.
The South Dakota
Constitution was adopted in 1889. The first constitutional convention
seeking South Dakota statehood was held in 1883. This was the first time
the people of Dakota Territory petitioned congress for admission to the
Union. A second convention was held two years later. In 1889, the
convention drafted the final constitutional provisions, and on November 2 of
that year President Benjamin Harrison signed the document that made South
Dakota the thirty-ninth or fortieth state. North Dakota was admitted to the
Union on the same day and the President intentionally shuffled the two
proclamations so it is not known which was signed first.
The South Dakota
Constitution provides that the governmental powers of the state are "divided
into three distinct departments, the legislative, executive, and judicial;
and the powers and duties of each are prescribed by this Constitution."
article vests the legislative power, other than the initiative and
referendum processes, in a bicameral body. The number of senators may not
be less than twenty-five nor more than
thirty-five; the house of representatives must have between fifty and
seventy-five members. Since 1970, the Senate has had thirty-five members
and the house seventy members. The state is divided into thirty-five
each electing two representatives and one senator.
held annually. In odd-numbered years, the legislature meets for forty days
and in even-numbered years for
All sessions commence on the second Tuesday in January.
The Governor is
empowered to call special sessions of the legislature for specific
purposes. There have been eighteen such sessions since statehood. A 1990
constitutional amendment allows for a special session when two-thirds of the
members of each house petition for a special session for a specific purpose.
be qualified voters in their legislative districts, at least twenty-one
years old, citizens, and residents of the state for two years immediately
preceding election. Terms are for two years. A 1992 constitutional
amendment limits members to four consecutive terms in each house.
In 1951, the
South Dakota Legislature established the Legislative Research Council to
provide full-time staff support to the legislature.
In 1898, South
Dakota became the first state to authorize the initiative and referendum
procedures for ordinary legislation. The initiative process was extended to
include constitutional amendments in 1972. Prior to that time all
originated with the legislature and were submitted to popular vote.
Initiated measures permit the voters to add to, amend or repeal existing
laws; the referred law process allows the voters to approve or reject
measures passed by the legislature. However, the referendum does not apply
to laws which are "necessary to the immediate
of the public peace, health or safety" or which are necessary for the
support of state government and its existing institutions.
initiate or refer legislation require signatures equal to five percent of
the votes cast for Governor in the last general election. Petitions to
initiate a constitutional amendment require signatures equal to ten percent
of the votes for Governor in the last general election.
The governor is
the chief executive of the state elected to a four-year term in
nonpresidential election years. The candidates
for governor and lieutenant governor of each party must run as a team.
South Dakota law also permits independent candidates to file for the general
election. The governor and lieutenant governor are limited to two
successive terms in office. They must be residents of the state for at
least two years, citizens of the Unites States and at least twenty-one years
While the only
specific prescribed duty of the lieutenant governor is to preside over the
state senate, the South Dakota Constitution provides that the lieutenant
governor "shall perform the duties and exercise the powers that may be
delegated to him by the governor."
governors have made changes in the
structure, legislative action has also dictated some of the organizational
patterns. At the present time, the executive branch of state government that
is controlled by the governor operates through the following departments and
bureaus, each headed by a cabinet-level secretary or commissioner:
Tourism & State
Game, Fish and
The Board of
Regents is the governing board named in the South Dakota Constitution to
oversee the six state institutions of higher learning and the schools for
the hearing and visually handicapped.
unified judicial system is the product of a 1972 constitutional amendment
and the implementing legislation adopted in subsequent years.
At the top of
the system is a five justice Supreme Court. Until 1980, justices were
elected for eight-year terms. Under a constitutional amendment adopted that
year, Supreme Court justices no longer file petitions to have their names on
the ballot, but are instead subject to a retention election every eight
years. All vacancies on the Court are filled by gubernatorial appointment
upon the recommendation of the judicial qualifications commission. Justices
represent each of five geographic Supreme Court districts, and they elect
among themselves the chief justice.
Court has limited original jurisdiction. In practice, its work is almost
entirely appellate. In addition, the "Governor
has the authority to require opinions upon important questions of law
involved in the exercise of his executive power and upon solemn occasions."
The state is
also divided into seven circuit court districts, each circuit electing a
proportionate share of the thirty-eight circuit court judges which are the
backbone of the system. Judges are elected on a non-partisan basis for
eight year terms. Vacancies
filled by gubernatorial appointment upon the recommendation of the judicial
court is considered the keystone of the state's trial system and has broad
jurisdiction. It has exclusive jurisdiction over the trial of felonies and
appellate jurisdiction as specified by law. In civil matters, it tries
cases which are beyond the jurisdiction of the magistrate courts. It is the
only court which may grant divorces or annulments of marriage and determine
the boundaries or title of real property.
courts exist in each of the judicial circuits and function under the
supervision of the presiding judge of the circuit court. Each circuit is
authorized to have at least one full-time law-trained magistrate.
Additionally, the presiding judge of each circuit is authorized to appoint
lay magistrates to provide added judicial service for the counties and
municipalities. The magistrate courts have limited jurisdiction.
Constitution provides for constitutional officers which are the attorney
general, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, and commissioner of school
and public lands who hold their office for a term
of four years. These officials are limited to two consecutive terms. These
offices provide important functions of state government such as legal
representation, official filing duties, election administration, processing
of state payments, receipt of payments to the
state, and administering school and public lands. These duties are separate
from the legislative, executive and judicial branches.
public utilities commissioners are elected for six-year terms on a staggered
basis. There are no term limits for public utilities commission members.