Conurbation. What is it? Why does it matter?


As the legislative redistricting committees get further along in their work, one of the terms we hear is “conurbation.”  The word is defined as “an aggregation or continuous network of urban communities.”  Within the redistricting process, it is used to describe a group of legislative districts representing an urban area.  There are two conurbation areas being considered by the committees – one for Sioux Falls and one for Rapid City.  These are largely a housekeeping convention, used to manage the committee’s workload.

Each of the state’s 35 Senate districts will have a population of 25,333, plus or minus five percent.  This is a guideline established by the committees to satisfy the constitutional requirement that the districts have population as nearly equal as is practicable.  The redistricting process is in some respects like putting together a 35-piece puzzle, using pieces that are dictated by population numbers.  

The population within a conurbation area will be a multiple of 25,333 (plus or minus five percent).  For example, the Rapid City conurbation area will encompass three legislative districts and will have a population of approximately 76,000.  By establishing the outer boundary of a conurbation area, it allows the full committee to work on drawing lines for the rest of the state while a subcommittee works with local input to develop recommendations for the district lines within that area.

Any recommendations developed for districts within a conurbation area will then be brought back to the full committee to plug into the statewide map.  For much of the state, legislative districts will encompass multiple counties.  The legislative districts within the state’s larger communities will require more analysis to ensure that district lines make sense.  For example, using a major street in a commercial area as a dividing line is better than using a street in a residential area. 

The redistricting process also has a subcommittee working on the districts representing tribal areas.  South Dakota was in a lawsuit 20 years ago for violating the Voting Rights Act, a federal law that prohibits racial discrimination in voting.  The tribal subcommittee will be working to develop recommendations for districts that meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act and subsequent court cases.

As the process unfolds, your thoughts and comments are welcome.  You can send a general email to, or reach me via email at

Redistricting Update


After months of waiting, we are about to receive official data from the U.S. Census Bureau which will allow us to move forward with our Constitutional obligation to reconfigure the state’s legislative districts.  The official redistricting numbers will be released in a “legacy” format on August 16 at  This data, available through the website, will be in the form of zip files to import into databases.  The same data will be released by the U.S. Census Bureau on September 30 in a format that will be easier to view and download.

In South Dakota, we anticipate that by the last week in August, legislative staff will be able to have the data organized and loaded into our redistricting software to begin the process of drawing maps for the state. 

The Legislative Redistricting Committees will meet August 30 in Pierre to review the data and begin charting our path forward.  We will need to make decisions regarding the minimum and maximum population allowable in each district, as well as the size of the conurbation areas around Sioux Falls and Rapid City.  We are planning a series of meetings in October at various locations throughout the state to solicit public input. 

The redistricting process is something we do once every ten years.  I believe it’s paramount that we involve the public as much as possible.  As our redistricting committee moves forward, my goal is to give South Dakotans a voice in our discussions.  Each of our committee meetings is broadcast through South Dakota Public Broadcasting, and each meeting includes opportunity for public testimony.  We are developing a website that contains information needed to understand our constitutional and statutory requirements for redistricting.  We are researching ways to allow the public to submit potential maps for the legislature to consider. 

As the process unfolds, your thoughts and comments are welcome.  You can send a general email to, or reach me via email at