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Law enforcement investigates abortion petition callers

todayMay 13, 2024 2

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation has been asked to look into a series of calls made May 13 to people who had signed the Abortion Rights petition.

KELOLAND News first became aware of the calls on Monday morning when a family member of a newsroom employee received a call from someone claiming to be a volunteer with the Secretary of State’s Office.

The family member stated that the caller began asking them questions about their choice to sign the Abortion Rights petition in what the family member described as a ‘judgmental tone.’

The family member who received the call took down the caller’s name and number from their caller ID. KELOLAND News contacted the caller, and asked them about their claim of being a volunteer for the Secretary of State’s Office.

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The caller told KELOLAND they would need to speak with their volunteer coordinator, but that they were not at liberty to say who that coordinator was, or what organization they were representing. Upon further questioning from KELOLAND News, the caller said she was calling on behalf of the South Dakota Petition Integrity Committee.

KELOLAND News also spoke with Amy Scott-Stoltz, President of the South Dakota League of Women Voters, who was contacted by a different member of the Petition Integrity group.

Scott-Stoltz told KELOLAND that she had received complaints of these calls, and that she had contacted the Office of the Secretary of State. Scott-Stoltz also passed the phone number of the person who called her along to KELOLAND.

Upon calling this second Petition Integrity caller, we received a similar response, that she was a volunteer, and would refer us to her volunteer coordinator. When asked who the coordinator was, she hung up.

KELOLAND News contacted the offices of the Secretary of State and the Attorney General on Monday to ask about the calls. Rachel Soulek, Director of the Division of Elections at the Office of the Secretary of State responded with this message:

Hello Jacob,

Thank you for the email. We have received calls from concerned citizens who have been contacted where the caller is lying and saying they are a volunteer with the SOS office. Our office has not and would not ever make any such calls and we are working with law enforcement to investigate the claims. These calls are coming from random numbers with a 605 area code.

Some of the callers are saying they are with the South Dakota Integrity Committee or with Petition Integrity Commission. They are questioning citizens regarding the Abortion Rights petition. A committee named South Dakota Petition Integrity did file a campaign finance statement of organization this morning. Whoever is behind these false actions have taken the farthest path from integrity possible.

People who receive such calls are encouraged to contact the Secretary of State’s Office, the Division of Elections at elections@state.sd.us or call 605-773-3537.

Thank you,
Rachel Soulek, Office of the Secretary of State

The South Dakota Petition Integrity committee named in Soulek’s statement is run by Republican State Rep. Jon Hansen.

In addition to their statement sent via email, the Office of the Secretary of State also issued a public warning of a phone scam. In this announcement, Secretary of State Monae Johnson says “Scammers are pushing the voters to challenge the Abortion Rights ballot measure petitions,” and “Citizens in South Dakota, by law, have the right to petition and people like these scammersare eroding public trust in the election process.”

While Secretary Johnson’s statement says it is unclear if these callers are affiliated with Hansen’s committee, KELOLAND News spoke with Hansen Monday afternoon, at which time he confirmed that he had volunteers calling people who had signed the Abortion Rights petition.

South Dakota Petition Integrity PAC filing with the Office of the Secretary of State.

Hansen was the sponsor of a bill this past legislative session which would allow those who have signed a ballot petition to remove their name. The bill passed, and was signed into law.

Hansen disputes the accusation that his volunteer callers were lying, telling KELOLAND he can guarantee that the callers did not say they were volunteers with the Secretary of State’s Office. Instead, he says his callers were instructed to tell petition signers they were volunteers with the South Dakota Petition Integrity Committee.

The purpose of the calls, according to Hansen, were to determine if people had been misled, or if laws had been broken by those gathering signatures. He claims many people were misled.

Written by: Badlands Classic Rock

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