Election 2024 could make over South Dakota Constitution | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Election 2024 could make over South Dakota Constitution

Your guide to the 2024 elections

The South Dakota State Capitol building in Pierre powerofforever/E+ via Getty Images

Election 2024 could make over South Dakota Constitution


Voter makeup:

As of early June, more than 300,000 Republicans were registered to vote in South Dakota, more than twice the amount of registered Democrats in the state. The number of Republicans has gradually grown in the past five years, while the number of Democrats dropped by about 7,000 since last year. Republicans hold a trifecta in South Dakota, with control of the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state legislature.


South Dakota runs semi-closed primaries. Only registered Republicans can vote in South Dakota’s Republican primary, while independents and nonaffiliated voters may vote in nonpolitical races and in the Democratic primary.

South Dakota does not allow same-day voter registration. Voters must register at least 15 days before Election Day. Any voter can qualify for an absentee ballot by submitting a request to the county election official as late as the day before the election.


The state has voted for the Republican presidential candidate in every election since 1968. South Dakota carries three electoral votes.

In the 2020 general election, former President Donald Trump won the state with over 60 percent of the vote. Trump took 261,043 votes to President Joe Biden’s 150,471. He secured a victory with similar margins in 2016.

South Dakota Secretary of State Monae Johnson canceled the Republican presidential primary this year since Trump is now running unopposed. In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Biden won nearly 75 percent of the vote. Marianne Williamson took 11.6 percent.


South Dakota has only one seat in the House, but the primary was canceled after only one Republican and one Democrat decided to run.

  • Republican incumbent Dusty Johnson, 47, is running for reelection. Johnson frequently calls for cuts to government spending, making him a favorite of fiscally conservative lobbyists. He earned an A-plus pro-life rating from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. Johnson voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act that would have blocked any federal restrictions on abortion, and he has spoken on the floor in defense of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding for abortion. He won his last general election, against a Libertarian candidate, with 77 percent of the vote.

  • Democratic challenger Sheryl Johnson, 60, is a former businesswoman and former employee of the Sioux Falls School District. Johnson says on her campaign website that she used to be Republican but no longer aligns with the values of the party, saying the party has shifted to care more about control than freedom, inclusion, and personal responsibility. She called abortion access a freedom she will protect if elected. Johnson supports exceptions to pro-life protection laws for rape, incest, and health of the mother. She has also said she would support legalizing abortion up to a certain point in pregnancy. She ran for state senate in 2022 but lost.


  • South Dakota Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor based on the recommendations of a committee chosen by the governor and the state bar. After serving for three years, they face a nonpartisan retention vote and additional retention votes after each eight-year term. Scott P. Myren is the only justice on the state Supreme Court on the ballot this year. He was appointed over three years ago and is due for a retention vote. Justices don’t state a party affiliation, but all five current justices were appointed by a Republican governor. Based on court decisions, a 2012 Stanford study found the South Dakota Supreme Court is one of the most conservative in the nation.


South Dakotans will vote on two amendments referred by the state legislature and two citizen-initiated measures. Each chamber of the state legislature must pass an amendment with a majority vote to put it on the ballot. Amendments may pass with a simple majority.

  • The Right to Abortion Initiative, also known as Constitutional Amendment G, would allow women to obtain abortions within the first trimester of pregnancy. During the second trimester, the state is allowed to protect unborn life, but “only in ways that are reasonably related to the physical health of the pregnant woman.” The amendment would still allow abortions in the third trimester if the mother’s life is at risk.

  • The South Dakota Gender-Neutral Constitutional Language Amendment would remove universal masculine voice from the state constitution and replace it with gender neutral pronouns and terms. Nine other states have passed similar amendments.

  • The South Dakota Medicaid Work Requirement Amendment would allow the state to require people who aren’t physically or mentally disabled to work in order to receive Medicaid.

  • Constitutional Amendment H would change how the state runs primary elections. If it passes in November, primaries would become open to any registered voter, and only the top two picks would advance to the general election, regardless of party. With a strong Republican majority in the state, this is expected to benefit the GOP.

Dig deeper:

  • Read Leah Savas’ story on pro-life safety nets in South Dakota and other states.

  • Read Christina Grube’s report on changes to regulations on petitions in South Dakota after controversy over a pro-abortion petition.

Visit the WORLD Election Center 2024 to follow our state-by-state coverage between now and November.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a WORLD reporter and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College. She resides in Washington, D.C.


Clara York

Clara is a 2023 World Journalism Institute graduate and a senior journalism major at Patrick Henry College.

This keeps me from having to slog through digital miles of other news sites. —Nick

Sign up to receive The Stew, WORLD’s free weekly email newsletter on politics and government.

Please wait while we load the latest comments...