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SD Political Expert: Attorney General's Removal Reflects Public Will


Thursday, June 23, 2022   

On the heels of Tuesday's removal of South Dakota's attorney general, a political expert says it appears lawmakers followed through on what voters were hoping for.

In a legislative trial, the state Senate found Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg guilty of impeachment charges tied to a 2020 fatal crash. He was also forced to step down and was barred from seeking future office in the state.

Lisa Hager is an assistant professor of political science at South Dakota State University. She said the outcome reflects recent public polling from her department.

"Roughly 70% of South Dakota voters wanted Ravnsborg impeached and removed from office," said Hager. "So, it seems as if government here in South Dakota is following the will of the voters."

Ahead of the impeachment process, the situation drew widespread attention over Ravnsborg's actions following the crash, and whether he tried to mislead investigators.

Ravnsborg's defense argued his actions amounted to human error, and that the law-enforcement probe ultimately resulted in traffic misdemeanors. But Hager said there's a different threshold in a political trial.

The votes were not unanimous, but Hager said she feels it was still a pretty convincing result, noting the GOP controlled Legislature overcame party infighting to convict a fellow Republican.

Moving forward, she said it doesn't appear any follow-up action is needed to regain public trust.

"I think there is probably a higher trust in government with respect as to how this incident was handled," said Hager.

This week's final vote marked the first time a statewide official in South Dakota was impeached and removed from office.

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