One Sioux Falls man has put on 3,500 miles following South Dakota’s redistricting process; Here’s why Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — John Claussen would like to see more civility and participation in today’s democracy. 

This year, the life-long Sioux Falls resident put it upon himself to get involved by attending every state redistricting meeting to date. He’s put on nearly 3,500 miles showing up at 13 different meetings and advocating to state lawmakers to “respect the urban and rural vote” when creating new legislative districts. 

“I think citizens need to be involved and this is one way for a person to do it,” he told KELOLAND News. “Luckily I like maps and I like politics so this is a perfect fit for me.”    

Claussen attends the meetings representing himself as a citizen. He says he’s not working with any political party, organization or business. A former study body president at the University of South Dakota in 1982, Claussen called on leaders to find ways to get people more involved.

He attended his first redistricting meeting on June 1 at the State Capitol in Pierre. Since then, he’s attended meetings on Aug. 30, Sept. 9 and 30, and Oct. 18. He attended the redistricting Sioux Falls subcommittee meeting on Sept. 28 as well as the redistricting statewide tour Oct. 11 through Oct. 13. 

“I think our democracy has become soft in some ways and it’s very sad,” Claussen said. “For the rest of my life, I’m going to be an advocate for getting people involved. Regardless of whether they agree with me or not, we’ll be civil and discuss the issues.” 

On the issue of redistricting, Claussen’s main focus is respecting the voting differences between urban and rural voters. 

“If you look at past maps, there’s not a great respect for both the urban and rural vote,” Claussen said. “I think this country was initially founded on respect for urban and rural vote. That’s why California and South Dakota both have two Senators. But, at the same time, that’s why they have 53 Congressmen and Congresswomen and we have one.” 

Claussen cited the Electoral College as another example of respecting the rural and urban voter. He said in 2011, the South Dakota redistricting process had the city of Sioux Falls involved in nine legislative districts. He said only four were more urban than rural. 

Based on 2020 Census results, the average population of a district would have 25,333 people. Claussen said with Sioux Falls’ population of roughly 195,000, it should have 7.7 districts. He is proposing eight legislative districts for the city of Sioux Falls and rural areas in the northwest part of the city and southeast part of the city.

John Claussen’s proposed eight legislative districts for Sioux Falls.

He said he included rural areas northwest of the city limits and southeast because he believes that’s where the most future growth will take place in the next 10 years.

So far, proposed maps from lawmakers, who will convene in a special session on Nov. 8 offer six and seven districts for Sioux Falls.

You can find proposed maps under the ‘Documents’ tabs on the Senate and House websites. Those maps and any updates will be posted on the Legislature’s central redistricting site.

“If you look at some of the plans, they’re still underrepresenting Sioux Falls,” Claussen said. 

Throughout following the redistricting process, Claussen said he’s been encouraged. He said he’s been contacted from lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats.

“I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement from advocacy even if people don’t agree with me,” Claussen said. “It’s made me less cynical towards the process.”

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