Legislators wrapped up its decennial redistricting work on Wednesday afternoon, adopting a final map showing new legislative districts based on the 2020 census. The map is the result of compromise among legislators from both chambers who recognized that our current legislative districts need to change to match changes in South Dakota’s population. While many legislators would have preferred to keep their current legislative boundaries, most were willing to set aside their personal preferences and work together to develop new legislative boundaries that fit all of South Dakota.
We understand that in dividing up the state, you can’t make everybody happy. We were warned of that reality early on.
Serving 886,667 people is an interesting challenge. We held many public hearings, with an extremely small percentage of South Dakotans commenting at those hearings. One criticism was that the map doesn’t incorporate all the diverse opinions we heard at the public listening sessions. Given that some comments conflicted with one another, it was impossible to satisfy every concern. One of the most common themes we heard from the public was “keep my county whole.” As we weighed popular sentiment against our Constitutional obligation of one person, one vote, it became obvious that not all wishes from the public could be met. In working to develop the map, we tried to avoid splitting counties, and tried to protect communities of interest, all while achieving the right population size for each district.
The new map takes effect for next year’s election cycle. It has 35 Senate districts, ranging in population size from 23,354 to 26,600. This is slightly above the 10 percent total population deviation that is often presumed to be constitutional. Districts 26 and 27 have slightly smaller population numbers than the others. These districts include reservation lands, where we worked to add as much population as we could without diluting the minority population’s voting strength, to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.
I believe the final map will serve our state well for the next ten years. The redistricting process is about developing logical district lines for the citizens of our state. Ultimately, I believe it is important for all legislators to work across district lines for policies that are good for all of South Dakota.