5 things to know about 2012 South Dakota election

11/5/2012 11:45 PM
By Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — In South Dakota, the U.S. House race has grabbed most of the attention, but voters also will choose members of the Legislature and make decisions on seven ballot measures.

Here are five things to consider heading into Tuesday's general election:

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A CHEAT SHEET IS NOT A BAD IDEA

With seven constitutional amendments, initiated measures and referred laws on the ballot, voters could benefit — and shorten the time they're in the voting booth — by studying the issues in advance and writing down how they want to vote. A lot of attention has been given to a proposed sales tax increase to help schools and Medicaid providers and Gov. Dennis Daugaard's plan to give teachers merit pay and provide incentives to recruit more teachers into critical fields. But other ballot measures largely have remained under the radar. Those include constitutional amendments to revise provisions relating to corporations, increase mileage reimbursements for lawmakers' first and last trips to the Capitol during each legislative session, and revise the distribution of money from a trust fund created with the proceeds of the 2001 sales of the state cement plant.

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THE GOVERNOR WILL GET A REPORT CARD

The top ballot issues in Tuesday's election amount to a referendum on some of Daugaard's key initiatives during his first two years in office. Voters will decide whether to raise the state sales tax to benefit schools and health care facilities, a proposal made in reaction to budget cuts instituted last year by the governor and the Republican-dominated Legislature. Also on the ballot are the Republican governor's plans for giving bonuses to top teachers, moving to a new incentive plan to attract large industrial projects and amending the South Dakota Constitution to clarify that the state budget must be balanced.

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THE CONGRESSIONAL RACE HAS NATIONAL IMPLICATIONS

The congressional race between Republican Rep. Kristi Noem and Democratic challenger Matt Varilek will determine how South Dakota's lone member of the U.S. House speaks and votes on taxes, spending, budget cuts and health care in the next two years. In a closely divided Congress, that could play a role in what happens to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, what changes are made to Medicare and what provisions are included in the next farm bill.

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THE LEGISLATURE WILL LOOK DIFFERENT

The makeup of the next Legislature will help determine state policy on budgets, education, economic development and other issues. But no matter which party prevails in the fight for House seats, it's likely a new face will be in at least one in every five chairs. Legislative turnover has been between 20 percent and 25 percent in recent elections.

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THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES SKIPPED SOUTH DAKOTA FOR A REASON

Republican presidential candidates nearly always carry South Dakota. No Democratic presidential candidate has won the state since 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson defeated Republican challenger Barry Goldwater.


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