Evaluating petition process for Sioux Falls candidates

Sioux Falls, SD (KSFY) Candidates submitted petitions to run for office in the city of Sioux Falls on Friday, but three people hoping to run did not get enough valid signatures to get on the ballot.

Mayoral hopeful David Zokaites and City Council hopefuls Clara Hart and Peter Pishcke did not make the cut.

Candidates running for Sioux Falls mayor or an at-large city council seat are required to submit at least 200 petition signatures of registered voters in the city. It's the requirement that can occasionally throw a wrench in a candidate's campaign.

“They're a whole lot of work to generate; I had no idea how hard it is to get 200 signatures,” Zokaites said.

For first time candidates, the petition process can be intimidating.

“Typically that petition gathering process can be a little detail-oriented, so you want to make sure petitions are filled out in their entirety and complete,” South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs said.

Its where Zokaites said he ran into problems.

“The nomination petition form has additional information on it that is just not necessary. You have to get the county of registration correct or they throw it out,” he said.

Zokaites was just four valid signatures short of getting on the ballot.

“It’s something you have to know going into it, we always say you should get if not double, get more than what is required,” Democratic Party Executive Director Sam Parkinson said.

“I had totally planned to run for city council,” Zokaites said.

For Peter Pishcke, the time frame required to collect the signatures was the issue.

“You have that four week time period that I think has shown to be ample for a lot of candidates out there,” Sioux Falls City Clerk Tom Greco said.

But Pishcke says he came down with walking pneumonia just days after the start of that four week period.

“So by the time I felt like I could get out of the house and get out there to get signatures, it was too late to get the signatures I needed,” Pishcke said.

State law requires the four week time frame for collecting signatures in all municipal elections in South Dakota.

“I don't think it’s too short,” Krebs said. “It’s a reasonable time frame and the number of signatures they have to get isn't that great.”

We took a look at what it takes to get on the ballot in other cities in the Sioux Falls region. Omaha gives candidates roughly six months to collect petitions signatures. Des Moines allows candidates to collect petitions signatures any time and turn them in over a one month period.

Candidates in Fargo can also collect petition signatures anytime of the year, but the city also has the option to pay a $100 in lieu of collecting signatures. City officials say it’s incredibly rare to see someone who wants to run not make it on the ballot in Fargo.

Both party leaders and state election officials say while some may be intimidated to run for office, it’s actually a fairly simple process when you know where to start.

“Running for office is a whole lot less intimidating than it’s made out to be,” Parkinson said. “It should be very simple to represent people in this city and this state and I think they do make the process that way.”

There is a full list of information available for candidates on the Secretary of State's website; political parties are also a great resource to learn how to run for office.

“We just love to see people run for office, it’s just a chance to get your voice be heard,” Krebs said.