Minnehaha petition collection site limits paused by judge

Published: Jun. 14, 2023 at 2:11 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A policy that restricts petition circulators outside of the Minnehaha County Administration Building has been paused.

The decision comes from a complaint filed by Dakotans for Health against the Minnehaha County Auditor and Commission regarding the policy.

The policy requires petitioning groups to check in with the county auditor and designates two areas for petitioning outside Minnehaha County government buildings, away from areas of heavy foot traffic. The limited public use policy was recommended by County Auditor Leah Anderson and unanimously passed by the Minnehaha County Commission on May 2.

Dakotans for Health filed for a temporary restraining order, claiming the policy infringes on freedom of speech. The group successfully petitioned for a Medicaid expansion constitutional amendment, and it was passed by voters in 2022. In recent months, the group has been petitioning for a ballot measure so that South Dakotans “could choose to restore their Roe v. Wade rights.”

Employees of the government building claim anti-abortion protesters from groups such as Life Defense Fund and the Dakotans for Health petitioners have become more aggressive, which led to the policy being put in place. Incidents of petitioners entering prohibited areas and arguing with protestors were raised in testimonies.

U.S. District Court Judge Roberto Lange wrote that the sidewalks surrounding the government building were likely a public forum, and that Dakotans for Health had “shown a likely violation of their First Amendment rights.”

Lange granted their motion for a preliminary injunction on June 13th, pausing any enforcement of the policy.