GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS IN SOUTH DAKOTA

South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre
Government
Like that of other U.S. states, the structure of the government of South Dakota follows the same separation of powers as federal government, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The structure of the state government is laid out in the Constitution of South Dakota, the highest law in the state. The constitution may be amended either by a majority vote of both houses of the legislature, or by voter initiative.

The Governor of South Dakota occupies the executive branch of the state government. The current governor is M. Michael Rounds, a Republican from Pierre. The state constitution gives the governor the power to either sign into law or veto bills passed by the state legislature, to serve as commander-in-chief of the South Dakota National Guard, to appoint a cabinet, and to commute criminal sentences or to pardon those convicted of crimes. The governor serves for a four-year term, and may not serve more than two consecutive terms.

The state legislature is made up of two bodies, the Senate, which has 35 members, and the House of Representatives, with 70 members. South Dakota is divided into 35 legislative districts, with voters electing two representatives and one senator per district. The legislature meets for an annual session which begins on the second Tuesday in January and lasts for 30 days; it also meets if a special session is called by the governor.

The judicial branch is made up of several levels. The state supreme court, with four justices and a chief justice, is the highest court in the state. Below the supreme court are the circuit courts; 38 circuit judges serve in seven judicial circuits in the state. Below the circuit courts are the magistrate courts, which deal with more minor criminal and civil actions.

Federal representation
South Dakota is represented at the federal level by Senator Tim Johnson, Senator John Thune, and Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Johnson and Herseth Sandlin are Democrats and Thune is a Republican. South Dakota is one of seven states with only one seat in the US House of Representatives. In US presidential elections, South Dakota is allotted three votes in the electoral college, out of a total of 538. Like most states, South Dakota's electoral votes are granted in a winner-take-all system.

Politics
South Dakota politics are generally dominated by the Republican Party, and the state has not supported a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964 — even George McGovern, the Democratic nominee in 1972 and himself a South Dakotan, did not carry the state. Additionally, a Democrat has not won the governorship since 1978. As of 2006, Republicans hold a 10% voter registration advantage over Democrats and hold majorities in both the state House of Representativesand Senate.

Despite the state's general Republican and conservative leanings, Democrats have found success in various state-wide elections, most notably in those involving South Dakota's congressional representatives in Washington. Two of the three current members of the state's congressional delegation are Democrats, and until his electoral defeat in 2004 Senator Tom Daschle was the Senate minority leader (and briefly its majority leader during Democratic control of the Senate in 2001–02). Contemporary political issues in South Dakota include the costs and benefits of the state lottery, South Dakota's relatively low rankings in education spending (particularly teacher pay), and recent legislative and electoral attempts to ban abortion in the state.

Luciano Mende

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