2016 American Clarion SD Legislative Scorecard

The 2016 South Dakota legislative scorecard from American Clarion is now available online.  This is the first time American Clarion has put together a scorecard which scores legislative votes during the last legislative session.

score_3A number of scorecards for the South Dakota legislature have been put together in the past, and many are useful, but most everyone has a different set of issues they consider important. Policy groups also tend to be concerned with a subset of issues. For example, tax organizations are concerned about tax policy, environmental groups are concerned about environmental issues, pro-family groups are primarily concerned about social and family policy, and so on.

Few organizations, especially conservative ones, create scorecards that look at across-the-board conservatism.  One notable exception (at the federal level) is Conservative Review, which has a Liberty scorecard which looks at all the areas of concern to conservatives, including defense, national security, taxes, regulation, limited government, social and family policy, civil liberties, and so on.

The American Clarion South Dakota legislative scorecard is an across-the-board conservative scoring of legislative bills from the South Dakota legislature this past session. The scorecard examines issues including: the homosexual agenda, gambling, socialism, taxes, spending, education, abortion, the right to keep and bear arms, family, energy, foreign policy, crime and justice, and more.

The American Clarion scorecard covers 33 bills from both the state House and Senate, and scores them not only on floor votes, but also on committee votes, which few scorecards seldom do.  You see, in the RINO-infested South Dakota legislature, most conservative bills are killed off in committee before they ever receive a floor vote, shielding the RINOs who kill them from public scrutiny.  After all, how many people pay attention to what is going on in committee…and how many scorecards score committee votes (hint: almost none).  The American Clarion scorecard also scores re-votes, such as bills that received more than one vote in either committee or on the floor or both.  If a person voted against a good bill or for a bad bill, they should be held accountable for each and every such vote, because every good or bad vote either advances or hinders a bill.

Because this scorecard scores so many bills (more than most scorecards) and scores committee votes and re-votes, the scorecard can be cumbersom to look at in a concise fashion.  Because of this, I have exported it in several formats.

Woodrow Wilcox

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The first is in Excel, which is the best, so the user can get the best look at the data; the document is password protected to minimize public mischief, but you can view it “read only.” The name of the representatives are listed first, followed by their overall score.  The first column is locked, so that if you use the bottom scroll bar to move sideways to view votes on individual bills, you can still see the name of the person who voted on the left. If you don’t have Excel, you can download a free Excel viewer here.

If you don’t want to use the Excel copy for whatever reason, you can view a web copy of the scorecard. The House scorecard is here, and the Senate scorecard is here.

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There were a number of very good scores in the House. For example, Thomas Brunner and Chip Campbell both scored 100%.  Lynne DiSanto, J. Sam Marty and Elizabeth May came in at 96%. Brian Gosch and Mike Verchio came in at a very respectable 94%.  In keeping with Ronald Reagan’s “80% Rule,” I set the formatting to show green for a score of 80% or above, and red for below 80%. Some notably low scores, among Black Hills legislators (where I live) and House leadership, were Kristen Conzet (74%), Dan Dryden (50%), Jeff Partridge (64%), Tim Rounds (74%), Jacqueline Sly (46%), Mike Stevens (74%), and Dean Wink (69%)–which is truly pathetic for a “Republican” Speaker of the House. Leadership should be leading the way to exemplify adherence to Republican values, which are conservative in nature.

In the Senate, there were no perfect scores, but Jenna Haggar scored 90%, Phil Jensen scored 95%, and Bill Van Gerpen came close to pulling off a 90s score with 89%.  Notably bad scores include Blake Curd (50%), Terri Haverly (63%), Deb Peters (44%), Deb Soholt (48%), Alan Solano (65%), Craig Tieszen (33%) and Mike Vehle (38%).  Some of these “Republicans” were way down in Democrat territory.

Having scored 33 bills on across-the-board conservatism, it’s a little hard for the RINOs to whine (credibly, at least) about “cherry picking” bills, especially since I decided before the first vote was cast on each bill whether I would score it or not.  I picked the issues that I thought exemplified an important area of conservatism, and which highlighted the divide between liberalism and conservatism, then let the chips fall where they might.  Some legislators I like voted incorrectly in some cases, I believe–but good people sometimes disagree here and there. There were also some legislators who have had bad records in the past who scored pretty well (for whatever reason) this time; I didn’t try to play a shell game with the bills to try to hammer them because they’ve been unreliable in the past. Unlike some organizations, American Clarion has not gone out of its way to make decent legislators look bad…or particularly bad legislators look better, either because they’re favored or unfavored.  To the dedicated conservative, a “favored” legislator is one who demonstrates loyalty to conservative principles and values.

Hopefully you, the voters of South Dakota will find this scorecard useful in holding your elected representatives accountable. Some of the people mentioned above will not be running again…but many of them will be, and most of them have opponents in the primary.  You can find out who’s running against whom here.  Learn about the incumbents through this and other scorecards, and learn about their challengers by going to their websites, Facebook pages, and candidate forums being held over the next month or so. Don’t vote for or against someone because you “like” them or “don’t like” them. Vote for or against them based on whether they vote right or not.  Your freedom, your prosperity, and that of your children, is on the line.

Make an informed vote.

UPDATE: An error was found with Rep. Lee Schoenbeck’s committee vote on HB 1057, incorrectly showing him voting in favor of the gambling bill.  The error has now been corrected. Every effort was made to be accurate, but when scoring this many bills, the potential for human transcription error is considerable. If anyone finds additional errors, please contact me using the contact information on the American Clarion “About” page.


This article is printed with the permission of the author(s). Opinions expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the article’s author(s), or of the person(s) or organization(s) quoted therein, and do not necessarily represent those of American Clarion or Dakota Voice LLC.

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Bob Ellis has been the owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005. He is a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, a political reporter and commentator for the past decade, and has been involved in numerous election and public policy campaigns for over 20 years. He was a founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota with his wife and two children.
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  • Thanks for all the hard work that went into this. Committee votes matter – even MORE than floor votes.