South Dakota redistricting chair: ‘We need to hear what the public thinks and wants’

KELOLAND.com Original

Legislative District Maps from the South Dakota Legislative Research Council.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A process that will affect South Dakotans for the next decade is entering its final weeks. 

With 17 days until the redistricting committee starts a statewide tour, the lawmaker in charge of the process says legislators are busy working on potential maps that will be presented in less than a week (Thursday in Pierre). 

Sen. Mary Duvall (R-Pierre) chairs the Senate Redistricting Committee and she’s encouraging members of the public to give input on the drawing of 35 South Dakota districts that will be home to elected leaders for the next 10 years. 

“We’ve had feedback from legislators because they’re the ones who are nearest and dearest to this process,” Duvall told KELOLAND News Friday. “As far as the general public, there hasn’t been a whole lot of communication yet.” 

Sen. Mary Duvall (R-Pierre).

Each district needs to be contiguous, home to 25,333 South Dakotan or within 5% more (max of 27,901) or less (minimum of 22,829) of that number. To date, Duvall said most of the feedback from members of the public has been about one single district. 

“That’s fine and important to know, but at the end of the day we have to make everything fit within the boundaries of South Dakota,” Duvall said. “When you make a change in one area, it affects what you do in other areas.” 

Duvall said the process has been more challenging than she first anticipated and noted lawmakers have been trying to create districts “as compact as possible.” 

“In sparsely populated areas, compact has a different meeting than it does in a really densely populated area,” she said, noting the challenges of dividing the major metros of Sioux Falls and Rapid City.  

The challenge of Sioux Falls specifically will be the topic of a redistricting subcommittee meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in room 303 of the HUB Building at Southeast Technical College. The agenda is to present and discuss Sioux Falls districts, including the “conurbation district proposals.” Conurbation merges several towns with suburbs, which would include Sioux Falls with surrounding communities like Brandon, Harrisburg, Tea, as well as Lennox, Hartford, Baltic, Crooks and others.  

Duvall said she hopes the Sioux Falls subcommittee finds internal boundaries inside the larger Sioux Falls area. She said lawmakers should try and use major, commercial streets to divide districts within Sioux Falls as opposed to a residential street. 

Three lawmakers have proposed three different sets of districts including as many as 10 districts within the city limits of Sioux Falls or as few as seven districts within Sioux Falls. 

Duvall said seven districts would be “very compact” for Sioux Falls’ districts compared to “a little bit larger area” with 10 or more districts. From the 2011 process, Sioux Falls has nine districts, with a 10th (District 16) going up against Harrisburg and as far north of Lake Alvin. 

Members of the six-person, all-Republican redistricting Sioux Falls subcommittee include only one lawmaker — Republican Rep. Bethany Soye — with a home address listed in Sioux Falls. Duvall said she can only appoint members from the redistricting committees, who were picked by Senate president pro tem Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown) and Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham). 

One South Dakota organization is looking to change the redistricting process, by establishing a redistricting commission, through a ballot measure for 2022.

Two days after the Sioux Falls subcommittee meeting, draft maps will be finalized for the redistricting committee’s October tour. 

Six towns, seven public meetings set for October

With drafts of new district maps, Duvall said the “redistricting roadshow” will travel across the state to hear public feedback on the new districts. 

The tour will be three days, Oct. 11 through Oct. 13, in six different cities with seven different meetings. The dates and times for the tour are: 

  • Monday, Oct. 11 
    Rapid City, Black Hills State University Center, 8 a.m.
    Mission, Rosebud Casino , 4 p.m. 
    *Duvall said for the Mission meeting, masks are required at the casino and remote testimony will be available. 
  • Tuesday, Oct. 12 
    Mobridge, Wrangler Inn, 8 a.m.
    Aberdeen, Recreation and Cultural Center, 1 p.m.
    Watertown, Lake Area Technical College, 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 13
    Sioux Falls, Southeast Technical College, 2 p.m.
    Sioux Falls, Southeast Technical College, (second session) 6 p.m.

In addition to attending the in-person meetings, Duvall said the public can submit written testimony or share comments at a specific redistricting email address:  sdredistricting@sdlegislature.gov. More information about the redistricting process can be found the South Dakota Legislative Research Council website.

“This is a chance for the public to come in and tell us what they think,” Duvall said. “We need to hear what the public thinks and wants.” 

Lawmakers will gather in Pierre on Nov. 8 and 9 for a special session to introduce a redistricting bill, which Duvall said could be amended “like any other bill.” She noted both the House and Senate have to pass the bill and it will need to be signed by Gov. Kristi Noem.

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