PIERRE, SD (January 5, 2019) – Two Republican incumbent legislators officially filed challenges to District 27’s Representative-elect Peri Pourier (D-Rushville, NE), and Senator-Elect Red Dawn Foster’s (D-Denver, CO) Constitutional residency qualifications to be seated in the South Dakota Legislature. South Dakota’s Constitution Article III Section 3 qualification requirements for Legislative office is the person must be a resident of South Dakota for the two years preceding the election. In recent weeks, legislators have been bombarded with mounting evidence showing both Pourier and Foster were in fact not residents of South Dakota, but of Nebraska and Colorado. Red Dawn Foster’s candidate nomination petition cited an apparent city park, with no dwellings on it, as her residence. Official complaints of election fraud have been levied against both candidates at the county and state level, with state and Legislative officials avoiding addressing the growing scandal for months.
Bennett County Commissioner Judd Schomp filed complaints with the county auditor who filed them with the county states attorney. Schomp was told the Attorney General’s office responded that they did not want the complaints. Schomp said he wrote every legislator and received only three responses back “This is election fraud, and it needs to be addressed. Peri and Red Dawn have broken the law. They have deceived the voters of District 27, which is election fraud. The residents of District 27 feel completely cheated and deceived. We have filed our complaints and we have followed the correct chains, but nothing is being done to make this right with the voters.” Fellow Bennett County Commissioner Rod Kirk echoed Schomp’s concerns stating “I believe election laws were broken and an investigation is warranted. Laws are created for all people to follow, not whomever wishes to or not.”
Haakon County States Attorney Stephanie Trask expressed dismay and disappointment at the lack of response that she and her constituents have received from state and Legislative officials. “As an elected official within District 27, I am embarrassed at the lack of leadership within our Legislature. Our local voters turned to county level leaders when they got no solution or response from state Legislative leadership. The sad reality is the state legislature itself has the sole authority and responsibility to enforce South Dakota’s Constitutional requirements on its members-elect. All but a few in our Legislature have chosen to ignore this reasonability.”
Senator Phil Jensen (R-Rapid City) pointed out that in the analogous cases of Dr. Annette Bosworth and Pennington County Commissioner George Ferebee, the state and counties aggressively pursued and prosecuted to the full extent of the law in both cases. “In this case, Legislators are worried about being accused of racism when in fact Margaret Ross and Nicole Little Whiteman (both Native American women) have been disenfranchised. I don’t think South Dakotans want to set precedent in the state and the Constitutional eligibility requirements to run for office based on fear, but based on duties as elected officials that take an oath to uphold the SD Constitution.” Senator Jensen states that he filed the challenge because the rule of law applies to all South Dakotans and not addressing the filed complaints of election fraud was a dereliction of duty.
Representative Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Rapid City), who voted for disciplinary committees against Republican House colleagues Rep. David Johnson (R-Rapid City) in 2018, and against former representative Mathew Wollman (R-Madison) in 2017, stated the evidence showing Peri Pourier was not a resident of South Dakota should not be ignored. “The last thing any of us want to do at the beginning of session is to deal with this type of scandal; however, first of all, it is our Constitutional duty. We have all seen the ugly widespread effects of election fraud in other states and if we show we will do nothing now to address these reported violations of our law, then the credibility of our elections is already gone. I’ve received numerous phone calls and emails from concerned citizens regarding these reports of election fraud, demanding the Legislature look into this. To my knowledge, neither Pourier nor Foster have denied the numerous allegations, nor have they provided any evidence satisfying the Constitutional residency requirements. These allegations are serious and they need to be looked into.”