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UPDATE - Noem Misconduct Allegations
Bi-partisan effort calls on A.G Mark Vargo to recuse himself

As previously reported by The Dakota Leader, the Government Accountability Board has turned over the case of Gov. Kristi Noem's "nepotism" allegations to interim A.G Mark Vargo.

As of August 23, 2022, three state lawmakers, from across the political spectrum, are now calling on Vargo to recuse himself from the investigation into Noem. State Representative Jamie Smith (D-Sioux Falls), is joined by Speaker of The House Rep. Spencer Gosch (R-Mobridge), and Rep. Scott Odenbach (R-Spearfish) in calling upon the interim Attorney General who was appointed by Gov. Noem this June, following the impeachment of Jason Ravnsborg.

Rep. Smith, who is running for the Governor's office this November, told Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory, “I am asking that we have a special prosecutor assigned this,” Smith said. “As honorable as the appointed Attorney General is, this puts him in a bad spot, there is going to be an impropriety because he was appointed by the current governor who is being investigated.”

Representatives Spencer Gosch and Scott Odenbach told Dakota News Now reporter Austin Goss,

“I think in order to show the people of South Dakota that we take ethical violations and complaints seriously, then it is only appropriate that the Governor appointed Attorney General in Vargo steps aside, to allow for a third party investigator to look into the ethics violations by Governor Noem,” Gosch said.

“It is only appropriate for him (Vargo) to immediately recuse himself and appoint a special counsel so that there is a continued faith and trust in the process, that you are held accountable no matter who you are,” Odenbach said in a statement.

Vargo contends that no decisions have been made yet.

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--Breeauna Sagdal- Editor At Large

Post Date: 2022-09-07 10:19:51Last Update: 2022-09-07 11:02:41


South Dakota’s “Gold Standard” of Elections On Trial
SPECIAL REPORT - Republics Defend The Minority, Yet in The Republican State of South Dakota, Multiple Non-partisan NGOs Fight For Election Reforms, Ahead of November.

September 07, 2022 By Breeauna Sagdal

The state of South Dakota has been embroiled in one of the longest-standing legal challenges to its election process. In 2002, the ACLU filed, "The Largest-Ever Voting Rights Lawsuit on Behalf of Native Americans in South Dakota." According to the ACLU, South Dakota state officials have ignored federal law meant to protect minorities from voting discrimination for nearly 50 years, as the Justice Department has approved more than 600 statutes and regulations that affect voting and elections in the state, without proper preclearance.

The ACLU has long since contended that South Dakota flouts elections laws. In August of this year, Federal Chief Judge Roberto A. Lange agreed, ordering the state, and specifically Lyman County to come up with a new redistricting plan that will provide for two County Commissioner seats by this November's 2022 election.

September 6, 2022, another lawsuit filed recently, was just settled yesterday. Filed by plaintiffs; Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Lakota People’s Law Project, and voters Kimberly Dillon and Hoksila White Mountain, was settled against Secretary of State Steve Barnett, Department of Social Services Cabinet Secretary Laurie Gill, Department of Labor and Regulations Cabinet Secretary Marcia Hultman, and Department of Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Craig Price.



“This agreement requires South Dakota establish training and accountability mechanisms so voters, including Native voters, actually receive the legally required opportunities to register to vote,” said Oglala Sioux Tribe President Kevin Killer, regarding the case.

Secretary Of State Steve Barnett, however, is currently seeking employment in Minnesota, as the Benson City Manager. Barnett, who recently lost his party's nomination at the SDGOP Convention to Monae Johnson, now appears to be entertaining job opportunities out-of-state. Barnett will not leave his office until the new Secretary of State takes office after November's election. With a family to care for, some have expressed concerns that Barnett might be understandably, occupied with where he will land. Meanwhile, trainings and collaboration between agencies must occur before the next election to satisfy the state's agreement with the Rosebud and Ogala Tribes.

Conversely, state officials have claimed that South Dakota has "the gold standard" of elections. During the 2020 federal election, Donald Trump won the state of South Dakota by a significant margin, while still losing his bid for re-election. Following the election, however, another group of voters have been in hot-pursuit of election materials, in an effort to audit South Dakota's so-called "gold standard." Some media sources, outside of The Dakota Leader, have conflated SD Canvassing with Trump sycophants, still angry about the loss of the 2020 election. The logical fallacy of this stigma caught the attention of TDL, and we began to investigate
after republican counties started to hire top attorneys, and fight back against full disclosure.

Jessica Pollema of SD Canvassing tells The Dakota Leader, "South Dakota is one of only four states in the entire nation, that do not conduct a post-election audit process." Post-election audits are vital to transparency as the integrity of any election safeguards minority thoughts, ideas, and candidates seeking to reform the status quo.

According to ES&S (Election Systems and Software) the company contracted with the state of South Dakota to help provide secure elections, "Post-election audits are a legal process by which election officials verify that votes were counted accurately." The company goes on to state that, "ES&S voting systems support these audits by providing election details," specifically CVRs or Cast Vote Records, which the company says is used by election officials to ensure accuracy.

These samplings ensure that ballots match what the computer is registering as the voter's preferred selection. The ability to access these drives was a highlighted selling point, after the contested election of Al Gore vs George W. Bush in 2000, which resulted in a very long process of hand-counting ballots.

The group tells TDL, auditors across the state have been told these records do not exist, or have never received training on how to access them. Several have reported feeling frustrated that they are expected to certify the results of the election, when they themselves cannot verify each ballot actually matches what the computer software has registered as the vote.

Now it has come to light that this information came directly from the Secretary Of State's office, and Steve Barnett himself. An email dated August 24, 2022 from Kea Warne, who works for Steve Barnett, states "a CVR doesn't exist."

On Friday September 1, 2022, the South Dakota Freedom Caucus hosted a public meeting for County Auditors and the public to try and facilitate trainings, and get to the bottom of varied information.

During the meeting, Lyman County Auditor Deb Halverson confirmed that she had been notified by the Secretary Of State that the Cast Vote Record did not exist, and due to the determination by the Office of Hearing Examiners, third-party documents could not be shared.

"It has been our understanding that the ruling that came from the Office of Hearing Examiners, called the ES&S data proprietary information. Um Past that, I understand the Office Of hearing Examiners if not a court order, but it is close to it, and it is not my responsibility to violate any sort of ruling that has been made. Whether or not that is, that is not something that I can determine. But we have been told that, due to the Office of Hearing Examiners' determination, third party documents are not ours to share."

In a follow-up question related to being told auditors could not share third-party documents, Senator-Elect Tom Pischke (R-Dell Rapids) asked, "who has directed you to that conclusion?" Deb Halverson responded, "to the exact person who told us that information, we, the Secretary Of State has very clearly told us that a CVR does not exist in the counties that do not have an ERM."

As previously reported from last week; Lincoln, Minnehaha, and Pennington Counties are currently in litigation with SD Canvassing over public records requests made in order to obtain the CVR data. Those documents are legally allowed to be destroyed 22 months following the federal election. On August 31, 2022, Circuit Court Judge John Pekas ordered these three counties to preserve all election materials from the 2020 election, until the case for public records and access to records could be heard.

On the following day, September 1, 2022, Judge John Pekas then ordered all counties across the state to preserve their election materials. However, in an unprecedented move, Judge Pekas vacated his own order within 24 hours "ex-parte," meaning without the presence of both legal sides. The order was issued as legislators met at the Capitol with the public and county auditors Friday afternoon.

The Dakota Leader was able to verify that Judge Pekas vacated the "all counties" order, but according to the attorney for SD Canvassing, the order for Lincoln, Minnehaha and Pennington Counties is still in effect.

Lincoln County Auditor, Sheri Lund, told Kelo News in a recent interview that she has no intention of destroying the data being requested. The Dakota Leader reached out to Lund to ask if she or her legal counsel were present as the Judge vacated his order. Lund replied that due to current litigation she is unable to answer questions at this time. Lund also notified TDL that the meeting County Auditors are hosting on the 8th, will in fact be open to the public.

The public records requests were made in an attempt to help provide expert training for auditors and agencies alike, according to SD Canvassing. With the potential destruction of that material in 63 counties, and the turn-over of the current Secretary Of State, Pollema tells The Dakota Leader, "the amount of time before November's 2022 election is dwindling, I worry for the Native American vote, down ballot candidates, and the over-all level of public trust for the democratic process, if the state can't get training and collaboration organized ahead of time. As we witnessed in 2016, and in 2020, concerns exist all the way around. It's time to address these concerns for everybody and ensure that the will of the people is being done."

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--Breeauna Sagdal- Editor At Large

Post Date: 2022-09-07 09:25:32Last Update: 2022-09-07 12:54:56


Developers Plan For Solar Farm in Sioux Falls
The Sioux Falls Planning Commission Will Discuss Amendments to Plan for Solar Energy Next Wednesday

On September 7, 2022, the Planning Commission will meet at the Carnegie Town Hall to discuss a number of planning related issues of the City of Sioux Falls. One of the agenda items popping-up, is an Amendment to the Shape Place Zoning Ordinance (2013), adopting language to initiate, establish, regulate, and to plan for Solar Farm developments in the future.

Solar farms are usually built on retired farmlands or warehouse roofs, essentially anywhere that plentiful amounts of unused open space can house them. Solar farms are also known as "solar parks" or "solar power stations," as they create massive amounts of energy, just like any other power plant.

Utility-scale solar farms can produce up to 2,000 MW (Mega-Watts) per year, with community solar farms generally producing at, or under, 5 MW per year. To produce 1 MW, six to eight acres of land is required. Subscribers to Common Energy are accessing solar energy through community solar farms, a co-op that allows customers to use solar energy, without installing solar panels on their own roofs.

As part of the new Shape Places 2040 Comprehensive Plan, the City of Sioux Falls is hoping to incentivize, and give developers the ability to develop these new-age energy concepts. Their stated goal is to use energy from the sun in order to "sustain, and provide renewable energy to the residents of the city," while helping to shape the city's future growth.

According to the United Nations 2015 news article, "Financing Sustainable Energy for All," written by World Bank's Anita Marangoly George.

"For the global community, universal sustainable energy must be a top priority. We owe it to the 1.1 billion people still living without electricity and the 2.9 billion people still using polluting biomass fuels for cooking and heating. Energy is fundamental to ending poverty as it underpins economic growth and progress in all areas of development—from food security to clean water, education, jobs and health care."

As part of the City's Shape 2040 Comprehensive Plan, city staff are currently developing the following initiatives, and goals:



Through environmental stewardship practices, the City of Sioux Falls has plans that take a more proactive approach to environmental stewardship, including the Greenway Plan, the Parks and Recreation System Plan, and the Sioux Falls Master Plan for Storm-water Best Management Practices (this approach is to address both water quality and flood control). In the future, the City might also look at other master plans to further the environmental stewardship objective, including a Sustainability Master Plan.

Sustainability Programs utilize local governing policies in an attempt to convince residents to conserve resources, and alter consumer behavior through the use of taxpayer funded subsidies and incentives. These environmental policies for sustainability and biodiversity have been a mainstay-policy, first developed by the United Nations in the early 90's. Through newer global initiatives and goals such as Agenda 2021, and now the new goalposts set forth in Agenda 2030.

The United Nations has set about altering public policies at the local-level, in order to create a “world (by 2030) free of poverty, hunger, disease and want … free of fear and violence … with equitable and universal access to quality education, health care and social protection … to safe drinking water and sanitation … where food is sufficient, safe, affordable and nutritious … where habits are safe, resilient and sustainable … and where there is universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.” According to the U.N Agenda 2030's Human Securities, "this results in development that is more inclusive and sustainable."

Developers and Planners in Sioux Falls are now drafting amendments to the current city zoning, with the intent to create new regulations regarding the development of solar farms. Regulations for solar farm facilities would be subjected to reasonable conditions which will protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, while also maintaining the aesthetic integrity of the community. These regulations would govern the placement, construction, and modification of solar farms, while helping to encourage the the use of alternative energy sources.

Solar Energy is considered any type of energy generated by the sun. Solar energy is created by a process known as "nuclear fusion," which takes place inside the sun. Fusion occurs when protons of hydrogen atoms violently collide in the sun's core, and then fuse to create a helium atom. According to the United Nations, "solar energy is the most abundant of all energy resources and can even be harnessed in cloudy weather. The rate at which solar energy is intercepted by the Earth is about
10,000 times greater-than, the rate at which humankind consumes energy."

Solar technologies convert sunlight into electrical energy, either through photovoltaic panels or through mirrors that concentrate solar radiation, and can reportedly deliver; heat, cooling, natural lighting, electricity, and fuels for a veritable host of applications.

While the authors of the Shape Sioux Falls 2040 Comprehensive Plan have stated, "The environment should not only be considered as a constraint, and as something to mitigate, but also as an opportunity to enhance and to improve the quality of life of the citizens, of which, the focus of the plan titled Shape Community, addresses objectives within that goal of improving the sustainability of the community itself." However, per the Sciencing news article,
"Effects of Solar Power Farms on the Environment," in order to provide comparable amounts of electrical energy used today, solar farms would require large tracts of land.

Western states like California, have deserts with abundant space and sunshine, but these areas are also natural habitats that support wildlife. For example,
environmental reports underestimated the number of desert tortoises that would be displaced by the Ivanpah Solar Generating System in California’s Mojave Desert. The same solar farm also came under scrutiny when an increasing number of bird deaths were reported on its premises. Many of the bird's wings had been melted or burned off by heat from the solar farm’s mirrors.

Solar farms can also have devastating impacts upon entire ecosystems. The destruction of an individual species can send ripples throughout these ecosystems. Animals like burrowing owls in California’s Mojave Desert, rely on burrows dug by desert tortoises for shelter. As solar farms displace species within a habitat, they also remove the valuable ecosystem services that certain species provide to that habitat. Resulting in entire habitats becoming less livable for plants and wildlife who have adapted to specific conditions.

While the transition seems like a logical and profitable venture, especially as payments made by contractors are much greater than revenue which is received from farmland rentals. City planners must also consider that the transfer of land from agricultural use may result in additional tax liability, greater insurance requirements, personal injury/liability issues, potential future environmental mitigation, and even the inability to transfer lands into other uses such as the Farmland Preservation Programs.

In Craven County, North Carolina - "agricultural farm sales since 2007 (field crop and livestock production only) ranged from $40-$70 million annually, depending upon price of commodities and yield." According to an economic study by NCSU in 2008, "jobs and services supporting this industry added over $312 million to the local economy. However, the number of farmlands converted to other uses over the past 15 years have exceeded a twenty square mile area. This directly affects farmers and the local economy. Thus, any additional loss of farmland will adversely affect the agricultural economy." With food prices and the costs of inflation skyrocketing, some residents of Sioux Falls fear the risk of losing such vast tracts of farmland.

Other landowners are supportive of the plan to develop their lands into solar farms. As lands are transitioned from farmland to commercial property, it will also increase the amount of property-tax-dollars that counties can generate from the land use. Considering the total life expectancy of solar farms, which is anywhere from 15 to 20 years in length, the future income and tax revenues could ultimately add values to both the landowners, and the counties.

However, critics of the proposal warn that the issue is more complicated, and say abandonment of these solar farms, after they outlive their lifetimes, will only decrease land values, making reclamation difficult if not impossible. The issue of what to do with these large solar panels, after they have outlived their use, has become a very big sticking point, as the abandonment of solar farms is then subject to provisions of the Clean Water Act.
These panels tend to leak and leach toxic chemicals into the ground, surrounding environment, and are nearly impossible to recycle.

In particular, abandoned solar farms that have any type of wetland hydrology, would then be regulated by the EPA, the Corps of Engineers and the Coastal Area Management Act, leading to more involvement by the federal government. Chinese solar expert Tian Min, general manager of Nanjing Fangrun Materials, a recycling company in Jiangsu province that collects retired solar panels, has called his country’s solar power industry “a ticking time bomb.”

If Adopted by the residents of Sioux Falls, through the City Council, or by a petition drive, 'developers' will be able to apply for, and zone private lands with the intent to finance, provide for, and build out solar farms. Solar farms can provide renewable energy services to the many residents within a growing community, but how much energy, at what costs to the environment itself?

The Shape Sioux Falls 2040 Comprehensive Development Plan is seen, just as previous developmental plans, as citywide policies adopted by the people, to set aside specific plans, goals, and concepts for the upcoming decades. It will set a vision for how the people wish future generations to govern the city, and if adopted:

"The Shape Sioux Falls 2040 Comprehensive Development Plan marks a continuation of the progressive planning tradition in the Sioux Falls area."

The Planning Commission will meet next Wednesday September 7, 2022 at Carnegie Town Hall to discuss the plans further.

--Mike Zitterich

Post Date: 2022-09-02 08:53:30Last Update: 2022-09-02 18:06:28


The Alibi Bar-Lounge-Restaurant and Casino Plans-On New Building

September 2, 2022 by Mike Zitterich

Located North of E. Arrowhead Parkway, East of Six Mile Road @ 7400 E. Grove Trail (New Development).

On the Agenda for the September 7th Sioux Falls Planning Commission, is a petition request made by Johnson Properties to establish a new Bar, Casino, Restaurant, Lounge, on the east side of the city.

Part of a proposed new development, the project would be built on the old Arndt's Auto Wrecking Site. The plan is to build a new building on 1.98 acres of land. However, this must first be approved by the City Council, based upon the Sensitive Land Use zoning, due to the proposed site being within 500ft of residential housing.



Project Name: "Alibi Bar, Restaurant, & Casino Type of Application: Conditional Use Permit Owner: Johnson Properties – Justin Johnson Applicant: Reynolds Construction Management – Paul Reynolds Request: CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT to allow an on-sale alcoholic beverage establishment within 500’ of a sensitive land use. Purpose: Allow on-sale alcoholic beverages for video lottery terminals."

CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT STANDARD: 160.616 – Conditional Use Standards - On-sale alcoholic beverage establishments SENSITIVE LAND USES are land uses that need to be separated by a reasonable distance or incorporate buffer yards and landscaping to alleviate land use conflicts. Sensitive land uses are located not adjacent to, but within 500’ to the north of the proposed use. Uses will be buffer via drainage way.


The proposed bar and restaurant with video lottery terminals, supplemental to on-sale alcohol, meets the criteria and intent of the comprehensive plan. The site is located near a heavy commercial corridor with other commercial and industrial businesses. Specifically, along the south of Arrowhead Parkway but new development along the north will contain other C-4 zoned allowed uses. Required parking will be located on site. Buffer Yards are not required for the proposed use. A security management plan has been submitted and approved by the Police Department.

Presentation Link HERE

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--Mike Zitterich

Post Date: 2022-09-02 08:22:24Last Update: 2022-09-05 17:06:04


Circuit Judge Orders ALL Counties To Preserve Election Materials
It was previously ordered that Minnehaha, Lincoln and Pennington Counties could not destroy election materials in question. Today, Circuit Court Judge John Pekas ruled that ALL Counties will need to do the same.

Help Support The Dakota Leader... DONATE TODAY!

--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2022-09-01 19:17:12Last Update: 2022-09-05 20:28:26


SD Freedom Caucus Press-Release and Remote Meeting Link
Election Meeting in Pierre Friday September 2, 2022 at 1pm

Dear County Auditor

Thank you for expressing your interest to participate in the efforts of South Dakota citizens’, their representatives, and our Governor to preserve the integrity of our public elections, by ensuring transparency and oversight by the public in our elections, as they were intended.

The invitation we received from the County Auditors to provide the people’s representatives with information regarding the election speaks to the very heart of our request to Governor Noem and the Attorney General, namely that members of our citizenry have been denied public records of their election and how such election was conducted, on the basis of protecting private, special interests instead of the people’s, which as elected officials we swore to uphold.

Whether or not issues or incidents occurred in the previous elections is immaterial to our request to uphold the inherent right of the citizens of our great state of South Dakota to oversee their elections. As we originally stated the issue at hand, and our Governor has publicly agreed with, we are proud of the right of our people to oversee their government and elections, which is “embodied in our laws allowing for the inspection of nearly every step of our elections while still maintaining the secrecy of individual ballots,” and is seemingly being denied by those officials we have entrusted with this sacred duty.

We are pleased to see that Governor Noem supports our efforts, and her administration will be assisting us in the fight for free, fair and transparent elections in South Dakota, as they are “actively researching potential legislation for the upcoming legislative session.”

That is why we have included the Governor and Attorney General in our response to you here today. Governor Noem recognized that inherent right of our citizens to oversee their elections and provided you and your colleagues a clear direction when she stated that “all aspects of state and local government in South Dakota would do well to conduct our elections in a transparent fashion.” We too would encourage you to take heed of our Governor’s wise and prudent advice.

That is why we must decline your request to attend the county auditors’ invitation only event, out of the view and inaccessible to the general public, and after the stated deadline for our request for the preservation of our election records has passed, on behalf of our citizens.

However, we would invite the various County Auditors of our state to attend a public informational meeting at our State Capitol before September 3rd where we, as the people’s representatives, and with an open invitation to the Governor to help us address issues or concerns any of our elected county public officials may have in serving the public’s interest and right in overseeing their elections at that time. We would appreciate you considering joining us in-person or remotely via Microsoft Teams on Friday, September 2nd, at 1 pm at the State Capitol building in Pierre, South Dakota.

In addition, we would welcome the chance to hear from Governor Noem on her vision to strengthen our elections, and to restore the trust and transparency in the process as she’s alluded to. Like our Governor, we will work diligently to hold our elections to a higher standard than what previous administrations and their Secretaries of State have, and to restore the trust of the public in their elections.

We look forward to the timely response to our invitation and hope our County Auditors will join us in working for the people of South Dakota.


South Dakota Freedom Caucus


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--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2022-09-01 15:25:02Last Update: 2022-09-02 12:53:30


SD Republican Party Leaders Attempt To Terminate Voting Rights Ahead of Next Convention
Division is growing in the South Dakota Republican party

UPDATED* September 01, 2022 By Breeauna Sagdal

A recent audio recording has been sent to The Dakota Leader of an SDGOP (South Dakota Republican Party) meeting, which occurred on August 27, 2022. The Republican party's Central Committee is apparently upset about recent shake-ups that took place during the Convention, held earlier this summer.

Secretary of State, Steve Barnett was replaced as the republican nomination for the office, going into the November general election. In addition, Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden, and Gov. Noem's choice for Attorney General, Marty Jackley, narrowly won their nominations. This has many within the current establishment republican party, frustrated and looking for ways around the party's by-laws.

Currently, the South Dakota republican party hosts a convention, once every two years, in which the by-laws read

"2. Delegates

A. County Delegation: The delegates to the state convention shall consist of the following from each county:
  1. The county chairman, county vice chairman, county secretary, county treasurer, state committeeman and state committeewoman;
  2. Not to exceed three at-large delegates elected in the primary election preceding the convention, who need not be members of their County Central Committee but must be registered Republican voters in their county; and
  3. Each precinct committeeman and precinct committeewoman.
Of these by-laws, #3 is what is being proposed for termination, "each precinct committeeman or precinct committeewoman." Precinct Committee People, also known as delegates, nominate candidates. Nominations determine who will run in the general election for the state-wide constitutional offices. The Central Committee is made-up of each county's executive leadership, along with the state party leaders, such as chair Dan Lederman.

Ahead of the last convention, the republican party saw a large increase of grassroots involvement, where many new Committeemen and women were elected as delegates to the convention. The new PCPs, fed-up with the current status quo, attempted to nominate new candidates for the November general election. The status quo on the other hand, feels frustrated that these efforts may hurt the party going into the general election.

Criticism has been heard far and wide, regarding "candidate quality," with many stating the grass-root selections are too "far-right." Grassroots efforts have been growing all over the country. In South Dakota, these efforts are not as wide-spread as in other states. However, those who feel the current party is too moderate, or too "left-leaning," are beginning to organize in ways that are upsetting to the current power structure.

As more kitchen table voters take a hands-on role in civics, and most importantly the dominate republican party, those currently in power are looking to change the rules and stem, or outright prevent, losing control.
On August 27, 2022, certain leaders within the SDGOP Central Committee proposed terminating the voting rights of duly elected Committee People, at all future conventions.

Editor's Note- We apologize that a former version misstated the organizational structure of the party. A huge thank you to our audience for quickly notifying us of corrections, and helping our writers to understand important details. If you spot a correction that needs to be made, please contact us at Editor@dakotaleader.com. Thank you

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--Breeauna Sagdal- Editor At Large

Post Date: 2022-09-01 08:36:14Last Update: 2022-09-01 21:13:25


Lack of Competition and Increasing Food Prices Impact Rural South Dakota
Health Outcomes Suffer As A Result of Rising Food Costs, Especially in Small Towns Across South Dakota

In many smaller towns across South Dakota, residents have one grocery store to shop at. Due to internal politics and pressure on various City Councils to prevent competition in the marketplace, those unable to travel long distances to grocery shop are suffering both financially and health wise.

According to a recent University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute study, Lake County South Dakota ranks as the healthiest county in South Dakota. However, Lake County also has a 29% obesity rate compared to the least healthiest counties nation-wide at a 30% obesity rate. South Dakota in general has a 33% obesity rate, higher than the national average.

One reason for this, according to the study, is access to affordable and quality food. While Lake County is a popular summer destination for its many lakes, and has 60% access to physical activities, some of the smaller towns within Lake County have only one grocery store.

A study conducted by Oxford University, finds that price level for food products falls with city size.

"This article uses detailed barcode data on purchase transactions by households in 49 U.S. cities to calculate the first theoretically founded urban price index. In doing so, we overcome a large number of problems that have plagued spatial price index measurement. We identify two important sources of bias. Heterogeneity bias arises from comparing different goods in different locations, and variety bias arises from not correcting for the fact that some goods are unavailable in some locations. Eliminating heterogeneity bias causes 97% of the variance in the price level of food products across cities to disappear relative to a conventional index. Eliminating both biases reverses the common finding that prices tend to be higher in larger cities. Instead, we find that price level for food products falls with city size."

The Dakota Leader conducted a sample basket of the same items from The Madison, SD Sunshine Foods (the only grocery store in Lake County's city of Madison) against Wal-Mart in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (the nearest large city). The price variation for 21 items was 84.31 to a respective 77.88. While a $6.43 difference might not seem like a big deal for two meals, milk and some breakfast items, the largest cost disparity came in the form of fresh produce. For example, at the Madison Sunshine each apple is priced at .75 cents, as opposed to the Wal-Mart where apples are 2.50 per pound, or approximately .62 each. Similarly, we found that fresh dairy items like yogurt, milk and creamer were nearly double the cost at the small town grocery store.

Various factors are impacting food costs today, from fuel prices to supply chain interruptions. However, one of the largest impacts according to researchers, is competition. When a town only has one grocery store, items tend to be more expensive, limiting the ability of many to purchase fresh produce and opt for healthier items. Instead, people tend to buy more cost-effective, shelf-stable items and forgo the fresh produce, if its even available.

According to
data recently released by the Federal Reserve, “supply chains remain disrupted, in some cases to an even greater degree than earlier in the pandemic.”

Forbes recently reported that, "the Covid shutdown wiped out the advantages of just-in-time inventory management, so some companies are opting for “just-in-case” inventory, ordering further ahead than usual," according to a report on DigitalCommerce360.com, an ecommerce media platform.



This is causing fresh food items like produce, to become more expensive for consumers in general. However, in smaller towns where prices can differ drastically, it's becoming a health and equity issue according to Policy Matters. "Recent research has found that in the United States, limited access to healthy food is associated with a lower consumption of fruits and vegetables, and a higher probability of obesity and other dietary related health problems. Areas with limited food access and low average incomes are often referred to as food deserts."

The USDA defines a food desert by low-income and low access. The federal government is now creating grants to assist with grocery store start-ups, and even mobile food trucks.

As Medicaid Expansion comes to the November ballot, lawmakers are requesting more information on the costs of healthcare in South Dakota, and what is driving various metrics of health outcomes. Under
Universal Healthcare, the government could limit the amount of sugar obese, and diabetic people intake per month, or implement food bans in general. Policies such as this, could go a long ways towards helping to increase overall health outcomes, according to the CDC "Healthy People 2030" framework. However, the issue of equitable access to healthy foods, would still remain an issue to be solved.

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--Breeauna Sagdal- Editor At Large

Post Date: 2022-08-31 13:04:15Last Update: 2022-08-31 11:48:41


Judge Orders Counties to Preserve Election Data
A Victory For South Dakota Residents and Lawmakers

Wednesday August 31, 2022 By Breeauna Sagdal

Circuit Court Judge John Pekas, ordered today that County Auditors must preserve the Vote Cast Records, and Ballot Drives from the 2020 federal election. The materials in question, were set to be destroyed this Friday September 02, 2022, 22 months after the last federal election. The order comes after residents across the state filed public records records, that have been denied in every county.

Recently, County Auditors have announced they would be hosting a private informational meeting with lawmakers who might misunderstand their role as auditors. In response, The South Dakota Freedom Caucus announced they would host their own informational meeting at the Capitol for the public and auditors alike. Chairman of the South Dakota Freedom Caucus, Representative Aaron Aylward (R-Harrisburg) stated their support for election integrity has nothing to do with former President Trump, or concerns for the 2020 election.



Aylward says his caucus's main focus is keeping public records, public.

“Whether or not issues or incidents occurred in the previous elections is immaterial to our request to uphold the inherent right of the citizens of our great state of South Dakota to oversee their elections,” a statement from the Freedom Caucus reads.

This is part of an on-going story, covered by The Dakota Leader. Please see yesterday's article regarding Gov. Noem's response to a letter sent by South Dakota state Lawmakers.

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--Breeauna Sagdal- Editor and Health Policy Journalist for The Dakota Leader

Post Date: 2022-08-31 11:48:41Last Update: 2022-08-31 13:36:14


Gov. Noem Responds to Letter from SD Lawmakers

Governor Noem responded to a request from approximately one-third of South Dakota's state lawmakers Monday, August 29, 2022. As previously reported by The Dakota Leader, a bicameral call-to-action was drafted by the South Dakota Freedom Caucus, requesting that Gov. Noem, and acting Attorney General Mark Vargo intervene on behalf of South Dakota citizens, whose records' requests have been denied.

Ahead of the 2020 election, the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) owned by Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg, donated $400 million dollars to Secretaries of State for ballot drop-boxes. The ballot drop-boxes were used in many states for the first-time, due to cited concerns over the possible transmission of COVID-19 during in-person voting. In exchange for allowing the drop boxes, counties were required to keep and maintain video surveillance of the drop-box sites for the twenty-two months following federal elections.

Last session, the South Dakota legislature made it illegal for the Secretary of State to take third party money, dubbed "Zuck Bucks," for election assistance. While many in the state legislature say it's a step in the right direction, many believe it doesn't go far enough to stop the use of drop-box sites.

Republicans, and some democrats contend that the ballot drop-boxes, and cash infusion by a third party, created an environment for ballot harvesting, and fraud. A concern further promulgated after the release of the documentary "2000 Mules," which allegedly shows illegal activity at drop-box sites. The documentary filmmakers obtained the video surveillance of drop-box sites from County Auditors who followed the law. However, whether or not these drop-boxes were actually recorded by South Dakota counties is one of the motivating factors for public records requests.



Citizens of the state of South Dakota have been working toward transparency for over a year, in an attempt to uncover these videos, and create a post-election audit. According to federal law, September 2, 2022 marks the twenty-two month sunset date, where materials like the video surveillance of these drop-box sites, and the vote tabulation information can be destroyed.

Citizens and lawmakers alike, have expressed concerns that the counties might not have recorded the drop-box sites as required, after public records requests were all denied. After the first round of public records requests, County Auditors took additional measures like hiring outside legal counsel to prevent disclosure.

Gov. Noem in her response to The Freedom Caucus letter, has stated that her team is actively researching potential legislation for the upcoming legislative session, to "further guarantee free and fair election in South Dakota."

Chair of the South Dakota Freedom Caucus, Representative Aaron Aylward (R-Harrisburg) tells The Dakota Leader,

“I’m thankful for the letter that the Governor sent, yesterday, as it shows that this is an issue important to her. Myself, and many others, look forward to working with her on election law. However, the goal of the 24 legislators who signed the letter to the Governor and the AG, was to put pressure on the counties to release the publicly held information before it gets destroyed. I pray that more auditors decide to do the right thing before the end of the week!”

For those who have worked hard towards transparency, like Jessica Pollema of SD Canvassing, the response from Gov. Noem was a disappointment. Pollema tells TDL, "While Gov. Noem’s comments sound nice, she did not address the contents of the letter such as the preservation of records, ongoing investigations, and the release of the public records. Future legislation does not address the immediate need for intervention on these issues."

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--Breeauna Sagdal- Editor and Health Policy Journalist for The Dakota Leader

Post Date: 2022-08-30 10:19:50Last Update: 2022-08-30 14:04:15


Leaders of Industry Op-Ed- “Inflation Reduction Act Will Hinder EV Growth”
Dependance on lithium mining in America to qualify for subsidies, will further negatively impact the lithium supply chain for batteries and stagnate the mandated transition to EV’s.

After his mandate to transition to EV’s, President Joe Biden then signed The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that requires EVs to contain a battery pack and other parts built in North America with minerals mined or recycled in America. With the chance of strip mining for lithium in America being slim to nil, no EV’s will qualify for the tax credits in the IRA.

Biden’s goal of 50 percent EV sales by 2030 will test lithium supply chains and the economic strength of the American society to meet those projections without any subsidies to procure those vehicles.

While the race is on to produce more lithium in the United States as the supply chain for the major component of EV batteries, lithium, is already being compromised internationally. The following international dark clouds on the lithium supply chain may be a prelude to an American rejection of strip mining in the most environmentally regulated and controlled communities in the world: Due to potential fires, the FAA prohibites in checked baggage, spare (uninstalled) lithium metal batteries and lithium-ion batteries, electronic cigarettes and vaping devices. They must be carried with the passenger in carry-on baggage. Smoke and fire incidents involving lithium batteries can be mitigated by the cabin crew and passengers inside the aircraft cabin.



Since you’ve probably read about EV fires, here’s a site that keeps tabs just on the TESLA EV fires https://www.tesla-fire.com/, Tesla Fires as of 8/19/2022 were 97 confirmed cases and Fatalities Involving a Tesla Car Fire Count were 38. Shockingly, while the Feds are banning lithium batteries in checked luggage on planes due to potential fires, Biden is pushing them for vehicles.

The actions of the Biden government and the
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) divesting in fossil fuels movement are currently supportive of jumping onto the EV train, but Biden and the ESG’ers may be oblivious that EV’s have a very dark side of environmental atrocities, and the non-existing transparency of human rights abuses occurring in other countries, both of which are directly connected to the mining for the exotic minerals and metals that are required to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels, and EV batteries.

The Pulitzer Prize nominated book 
“Clean Energy Exploitations - Helping Citizens Understand the Environmental and Humanity Abuses That Support Clean Energy," does an excellent job of discussing the lack of transparency to the environmental degradation and humanity atrocities occurring in developing countries mining for those exotic minerals and metals to support the “green” movement. The subsidies to purchase EV’s are financial incentives to encourage further exploitations of yellow, brown, and black skin residents in developing countries. Are those subsidies ethical?

Amid tougher emissions regulations worldwide, established automakers are racing to add more EVs to their lineup. A Reuters analysis found that global automakers such as Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Fiat, Volkswagen, GM, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, Daimler, and Chrysler plan to spend a combined U.S. $300 billion on EVs over the next decade as car companies are betting big on EV’s. Most of the EV’s will be manufactured in foreign countries far removed from American ports.

China came from zero production in 1950, to 2019 where it now produces more cars than the USA, Japan, and India collectively. The 6-minute video of the automobile manufacturing “needle” shows how the foreign manufacturing dominance occurred over the that 69-year period.

Automobiles Manufactured Per Year

Bringing those foreign built cars to America may be an insurmountable insurance problem.
The Felicity Ace, a 650-foot-long cargo ship carrying hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of luxury cars sunk in March 2022. The salvage crew working on the burning ship said electric-vehicle batteries were part of the reason it was still aflame after several days. The estimated market value of the Felicity Ace was $24.5 million, while the total value of the 3965 vehicles could be over $500 million.

With potential fires from EV batteries in vehicles, who’s going to take the insurance responsibility for their safe passage from the foreign manufacturers to American ports, the cargo ships, or the manufacturers?

How dirty is lithium strip mining? Since the mineral contains dangerous substances, the mining process also contaminates the local water basins. Lithium extraction exposes the local ecosystems to poisoning and other related health problems. How many Americans want strip mining for lithium in their backyard to view the
environmental degradation from leach fields which are part of the extraction efforts?

The number of electric cars on the world’s roads at the 
end of 2021 was about 16.5 million, or just slightly more than one percent of the 1.4 billion vehicles in the world. With lithium production being setback internationally, EV growth will be hindered as locals’ revolt over lithium mining impacts on water supplies and environmental degradation in their communities.

Independent Publications Like The Dakota Leader Depend on Community Support. Please Donate Today!

--By Ronald Stein Pulitzer Prize nominated author, and Policy advisor for The Heartland Institute on Energy

Post Date: 2022-08-29 08:55:41Last Update: 2022-08-27 10:41:14


Can Cities in South Dakota Adopt “Ranked Choice Voting”?
What is Ranked Choice Voting? Is it fair? Is it legal in S.D?

Ranked Choice Voting is a new idea being explored in several states currently. Ranked Choice is a form of voting that gives voters more direct democracy. Now, Ranked Choice Voting is being circulated through South Dakota, by those who favor the idea.

Former Attorney General Jason Ravsnborg, published written legal opinion 2022-01, in response to a special request by Janet Brekke, the former Chair of the Sioux Falls City Council. Brekke, on behalf of citizen lobbyist Jeanell Lust, asked the A.G to determine whether or not Ranked Choice Voting is legal for the City of Sioux Falls to implement, as a "home rule charter."

The purpose of Ranked Choice Voting, according to those who support such a method, is to "cancel out, and protect the voters from block voting." It allows voters to vote for their first, second, third and so on, choice of candidate regardless of party affiliation, or district.

Similar to current voting, if a candidate in the general election wins more than 50% of first-choice votes, they win the race outright. However, if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, Ranked Choice eliminates the candidate with the least amount of first-place votes and then redistributes votes to the candidates with the most first and second place votes. Then the scores would be recalculated, over and over again, until one of the candidates finally won a majority as the second, third, or even fourth choice of voters.

In the end, a voter’s ballot might wind up being cast for the candidate he ranked far below his first choice. A candidate, for example, that the voter might have strong political objections to, and for whom they would not have voted for in a traditional voting system.

For example, during the 1992 Presidential election between Bill Clinton (D), George Bush Sr.(R), and third party Independent candidate Ross Perot, voters would have been asked to vote for all three candidates ranked by first, second and third choice. Being that Ross Perot only brought in 18.9% of the vote, he would have been eliminated under a Ranked Choice system, with his 19.7 million votes redistributed between his supporter's second choice candidate. If, for example, 10 million people had Bill Clinton as their second choice, and the other 9.7 million had George Bush Sr. as their second choice, those votes would have been redistributed towards the overall totals for Clinton and Bush.

Those in favor of ranked choice, argue that downed ballot candidates dilute the voting power of one partisan candidate over the other. In a ranked choice setting, candidates would instead benefit from voters who backed a third party candidate, getting those votes if the third party didn't get the majority vote. However, others argue that this is another tactic by reformists, to rig the system and disenfranchise voters.



In 2016, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill to expand ranked choice voting in his state, saying it was “overly complicated, confusing” and “deprives voters of genuinely informed choice.” Brown added that such a system would present many opportunities to rig the electoral system.

In 2018, the first-ever general election for federal office in our nation’s history was decided by Ranked Choice Voting in the Second Congressional District of Maine. Jared Golden (D) was declared the eventual winner, even though incumbent Bruce Poliquin (R) received more votes in the first round. There were two additional candidates in the race, Tiffany Bond and William Hoar. However, the Maine Secretary of State, Matt Dunlop, “exhausted” or threw out a total of 14,076 ballots of voters who had not ranked all of the candidates. see Baber v. Dunlap

A study published in 2015, reviewed 600,000 votes cast using ranked choice voting in four local elections in Washington State and California. The study found that “the winner in all four elections receive[d] less than a majority of the total votes cast.” This is due to a phenomenon known as "ballot exhaustion," where voters only list their top two or three candidates, particularly when there are candidates on the ballot for whom they would never even consider voting. Thus, if a voter only ranks two of the five candidates and those two are eliminated in the first and second rounds of tabulation, their choices will not be considered in the remaining rounds of tabulation. This ballot exhaustion leads to candidates being elected who were not the first choice of a majority of voters, but only a majority of “all valid votes in the final round of tallying.” Thus, “it is possible that the winning candidate will fall short of an actual majority,” eliminating the influence of many voters over the final outcome.

As of July 2022, 55 cities, counties, and states are projected to use RCV for all voters in their next election. These jurisdictions are home to over 11 million voters, and include 2 states, 1 county, and 52 cities. In addition, military and overseas voters from six states are set to cast RCV ballots in the next federal election runoff.

In Alaska, voters approved a measure titled "Alaska Better Elections Implementation," as a statewide method of conducting public elections. As of August 23, 2022, the process of electing a replacement for Congressman Don Young's term (Alaska's lone U.S House Seat) will not be concluded until election officials finalize the transitioning vote counts from the other candidates to the remaining candidates, until 50% plus-one can be determined.

As it takes extra time to go down each ballot and reapply votes,
it's possible Alaskan voters will not know who won the special House election for awhile. On election night, and for the 15 days after, the state will only report first-choice results. If none of the three candidates, running to serve the remainder of Young's term have exceeded the 50% threshold, the state will apply the ranked choices, eliminating the last-place candidate and redistributing their ballots. State officials have said they will report the results on, or about Aug. 31, nearly two weeks after the election date.

The topic of Ranked Choice Voting has been brought up in South Dakota on numerous occasions. Most recently, Jeanell Lust of Sioux Falls brought the issue before the City Council's Charter Revision Commission on December 8, 2021, asking that it be placed on the agenda.

As part of her proponent testimony, Lust highlighted the fact that the city is a "home rule charter" form of government, which allows the executive, and legislative branch to adopt any such legislation it deems necessary, in order to self govern. In Lust's expressed opinion, the law allows the city to adopt Ranked Choice, because by law the people have the right to 'express' themselves, and establish any such electoral method, that voters approve.

Lust went on to highlight the 2010 City Election, where Mike Huether and Kermit Staggers did not get more than 26% of the vote, while four other candidates shared in the remaining balance, providing evidence that none of the candidates had a clear majority. She also pointed out that run-off elections can cost city residents up to $80,000 dollars per occurrence. Commissioner Carl Zylstra inquired about previous research done on this topic and whether or not state law already addressed ranked choice voting in the past. Soon after, Commissioners quickly voted to not move forward with the proposal, electing instead to ask the Attorney General for a legal opinion.

On May 04, 2022, that legal opinion was issued.

"In your response to your inquiry, I find that both ranked choice voting and approval voting present electoral systems that lead to the candidate with the highest number of votes – as cast according to the voting requirements of each system – declared the winner of the election. This is in accord with the provisions of SDCL 9-13-25. Further, I have determined that approval voting, as described in this opinion, does not conflict with state law concerning municipal elections found in SDCL 9-13-25 through 9-13-27.1. A home-rule-chartered municipality may adopt approval voting for its municipal elections. However, it is my opinion that ranked choice voting conflicts with the statutory requirements concerning runoff elections found in SDCL 9-13-26.1 and 9-13-27.1. I conclude that home-rule-chartered municipalities may not adopt ranked choice voting in that it conflicts with state law." - Legal Opinion #22-01

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--Mike Zitterich

Post Date: 2022-08-29 08:40:13Last Update: 2022-08-28 22:07:40


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