Amendment H, our top-two open primaries initiative in South Dakota, is gaining momentum. The state recently approved it for voters to consider on the November ballot. Then the recent primary election left many people in the state disappointed. Increasingly, South Dakotans are recognizing the benefits of our proposal.

The stars seem aligned for open primaries right now.

Only 17% of eligible voters participated in the polls on June 4th. Consequently, a small, motivated group of political outliers had a disproportionate influence on selecting winners in legislative races across the state. Several mainstream incumbents lost, serving as a wake-up call for many in the political establishment.

Joe Kirby and De Knudson prepare to file the open primaries petitions

Positive Polling

A South Dakota NewsWatch article reporting on their recent poll was very positive, as have been many recent articles, including this one. The poll showed 55% in favor and only 33% opposed to the concept of open primaries, and this poll was conducted well before the disappointment of the low-turnout primary election. The favorable number was up from 49% six months earlier.

Anecdotally, we have heard supportive comments from numerous politicians and elected officials, although many say they fear expressing that support publicly. They don’t want to be taken out in the next primary by the party bosses. Recently, we have also noticed a decline in political leaders voicing negative opinions about the proposal.

Our Challenge: Inform the Public About Open Primaries

We have been informing and educating South Dakotans about open primaries since 2016. In the last 18 months, our efforts have increased in anticipation of the 2024 public vote on whether to adopt top-two open primary elections.

One of the most effective ways we have found to inform South Dakotans about open primary elections is through social media. Many of our Facebook posts reach thousands. And it is not unusual for hundreds to give our posts a “Like.”

Some of our most popular social media posts include:


  • Closed primaries are patently unfair in one party states.
  • Let all voters vote!
  • Independents should have the same voting rights as Republicans and Democrats.
  • Independent voters are second class citizens in South Dakota.
  • 150,000 independent minded South Dakotans have little to now say in who represents or governs them.
  • If you claim to love freedom and democracy, but don’t care if it applies to everyone, what you really love is privilege.
  • Taxpayers should be able to vote in elections they pay for.


  • South Dakota deserves leaders who have survived a competitive election.
  • We need a better system for hiring people to govern us.

Partisan Polarization

  • A highly motivated group of political outliers has an outsize influence on political outcomes in our state.
  • Successful candidates will appeal to all voters, not just a partisan few.
  • Partisan bosses on both sides tend to dislike open primaries.
  • In our closed primary system, party bosses often decide who will run and who will be elected. Many voters have little to do with the process.


  • Our election system is failing. Let’s fix it!
  • South Dakota’s constitution says every citizen “shall be entitled to vote in all elections.”
  • Open primaries would restore rational government to South Dakota.

The November election is a long way off. In the meantime, we have much work to do to educate and inform South Dakotans about what open primaries is and why it would improve our elections. Amendment H, our top two, open primaries proposal, is a more fair and competitive system that would help rationalize our politics and focus elected officials on doing what’s best for South Dakota.