Update on Redistricting

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The House and Senate Legislative Redistricting Committees spent three days traveling across South Dakota to take public input on what the state’s new legislative districts should look like. We started at 8:00 a.m. on Monday in Rapid City and ended at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Sioux Falls. We traveled over 1,100 miles, making stops in Mission, Mobridge, Aberdeen, and Watertown along the way. More than 200 people attended our listening sessions.  We heard from about 100people who took time to weigh in on South Dakota’s future legislative districts.

Several key themes emerged from public comments:

Many people indicated they generally like their current legislative districts. As we move forward, we are trying to preserve the core of the current districts as much as possible.  Because of changes in South Dakota’s population – an increase of about nine percent over the past ten years, primarily in the southeast part of the state – we know that at least 34 of the state’s 35 legislative districts will need to change to comply with our constitutional requirement of one person, one vote. The only district that doesn’t need any alteration is the one encompassing Lawrence County, which grew at the right pace to comprise a legislative district. 

Voters and county auditors would like counties to be left whole where possible.  According to the census, seven of our state’s 66 counties are too large to fit within one legislative district. Brookings, Brown, Codington, Lincoln, Meade, Minnehaha, and Pennington counties will have to be split into more than one district, to satisfy the constitution’s equal protection clause.  As we work to assign the rest of the state into logical legislative districts, we are trying to minimize splitting any of the remaining counties as much as possible.

There were many comments about keeping urban districts as urban as possible, and rural districts as rural as possible, particularly near Sioux Falls.  The U.S. Census Bureau defines an urban area as 2,500 residents or more. As the Senate looks at growth patterns along the I-29 corridor, we are working to keep the urban districts as compact as possible, and the rural districts as rural as possible. 

We heard from the Native American community about protecting minority voting rights. One of the ways our committee is addressing this is to follow the current boundaries for Districts 26, 27, and 28 as much as possible to meet the requirements of the Federal Voting Rights Act, while also meeting population requirements as required by the Constitution.

Protecting communities of interest is another theme that emerged from our listening sessions.  While this concept is not clearly defined in law, we heard how citizens see their local community of interest. As our state becomes more diverse, we expect this conversation to continue. 

Over the next few weeks we will be working to incorporate these suggestions into a proposal for legislators to consider during the Special Session on Redistricting, set for November 8-9 in Pierre. Our over-arching goal is to develop a map that meets our constitutional obligations and statutory guidance, and is fair for the residents of our state. 

Proposed maps are available for the public to view at sdlegislature.gov. Additional thoughts and ideas can be emailed to sdredistricting@sdlegislature.gov.

State Senate Legislative Redistricting Proposal

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The people of South Dakota have vested the Legislature with the responsibility of drawing fair and equitable legislative districts that represent populations of common interest within specific geographic locations. Our goal as a Senate in redistricting is to offer a map that accomplishes our Constitutional requirements in a transparent manner.

Based on Census data, constitutional limitations, statutory requirements, and public input, we have developed proposal for how the new legislative boundaries might look.  We will be taking additional public input before presenting a recommendation to the full legislature during the Special Session on redistricting set for November 8 in Pierre.

Our guiding principles in developing this map include:

  1. Population: Based on the Constitutional requirement of “one person, one vote,” the ideal district size is 25,333. The courts have held that plans with an overall deviation of 10% between the least- and most-populous districts are presumptively constitutional.  Our committee worked to develop districts that were no more than five percent below or five percent above the ideal population size.
  2. Communities of Interest: The tribal nations have provided invaluable insights on legislative issues through the years. We currently have House seats in 26A, 27 and 28A and Senate seats in 26 and 28 with a majority of voters who identify as a minority. Preserving these Native and minority voices is essential to the makeup of South Dakota’s legislature.  As we began the process, we looked for possibilities to increase the number of tribal districts. However, geography and population limitations made those efforts unsuccessful, thus our proposal leaves much of Districts 26, 27, and 28 unchanged except for work needed to meet equal population requirements. 
  3. Continuity: One of the features of the legislative map implemented in 2012 is that it avoids dividing counties among multiple districts where possible. Our proposal keeps 22 of the state’s 35 districts largely as they were drawn ten years ago, with some refinements needed to reflect population changes.  We also looked at maps from the 1970s through 2011 to compare historical changes. It should be noted that the 1970s saw the first iteration of a legislative district map based on equal population and equal representation.
  4. Urban/Rural: As South Dakota’s population grows, most of that growth is in our urban areas, especially in population centers along the I-29 corridor. Yet, agriculture remains the state’s number one industry. Many are afraid that as rural voices in the legislature have eroded over time, Sioux Falls and Rapid City will dominate the legislature. Our solution is to keep urban districts as compact as possible and make the rural districts as rural as possible.
  5. Common Interests: State law requires us to look for areas of common interest. In addition to considering urban/rural issues, our proposal considers city boundaries and neighboring communities, tribal nations, school districts (many of which cross county lines), population centers, topography, common heritage, and a variety of other factors (media markets, past districts, transportation corridors, etc.). Our goal is to offer a plan that creates districts for the people who live there and entrust legislators to advocate on their behalf in the Capitol.
  6. Feedback: Redistricting is an interactive process and feedback from the public is crucial. Our map incorporates ideas brought to us from colleagues and local leaders throughout the state to reflect their area and the state as a whole.

Population changes in central South Dakota will require current Districts 23 and 24 to be reconfigured. Since 1982, the proposed lines for District 23 have existed in some form or another. Nearly identical to the current district, Campbell, Edmunds, Faulk, Hand, McPherson, Potter and Walworth remain in place. We propose making Spink County whole again (right now it is split between two districts) and bringing in a portion of western Brown County to meet the required population. 

District 24 needs to add 1,880 people to make a complete district.  We propose bringing Haakon County into the current district, giving this area the same district lines it had from 1972 to 1982. 

You can find the complete map on the LRC website under the Senate Redistricting committee documents as the “Blackbird” proposal.  The Senate Redistricting Committee adopted this proposal by a vote of 6-1, and will continue to encourage public feedback throughout the process as we consider additional changes.

Here’s a link to the map:  October Tour – Full Map Proposal – Senate – Iris (sdlegislature.gov)