Democrats tip balance in S.D. redistricting fight

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Pierre Capitol building legislature

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Republicans outnumber Democrats 62 to 8 in the South Dakota House of Representatives. But when the time came to push green or red on the Legislature’s compromise plan for redistricting, Democrats stuck together Wednesday and made the difference getting it through.

The seven Democrats who participated — Shawn Bordeaux of Mission, Ryan Cwach of Yankton, Linda Duba of Sioux Falls, Erin Healy of Sioux Falls, Jennifer Keintz of Eden, Oren Lesmeister of Parade, and Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls — all voted for the plan.

Needing at least 36 yeses, it passed 37-31. Had even two House Democrats voted against the plan, the three-day deadlock likely would have continued.

In the leadup Representative Taffy Howard of Rapid City argued against accepting the plan. Her call for continuing to negotiate fell short. On final passage, House Republicans split, with 31 voting against and 30 voting for it.

Smith, the House Democrats’ leader, explained why his caucus members supported it.

“We worked in good faith with people on the redistricting committee and tried to come up with a map that while not perfect did a better job of representing the voters of South Dakota,” he told KELOLAND News on Thursday. “Our priorities were clear, consistent and named early in the process. The compromise map met most of our objectives and therefore we supported it.”

Those priorities included retaining traditional Native American districts, reconfiguring District 32 to better represent Native Americans in North Rapid City, a “less gerrymandered” Sioux Falls, and trying to keeping whole larger cities such as Aberdeen, Brookings, Watertown and Yankton.

The new boundaries will be used for legislative elections the next 10 years, starting with the 2022 contests.

South Dakota Democratic Party chair Randy Seiler said in a statement that the new map presents “new opportunities” for the party’s candidates to win seats and that he appreciates Republican senators for their “bipartisan effort.”

There was no statement, as of Thursday afternoon, on the South Dakota Republican Party website from chair Dan Lederman.

The Senate voted 30-2 for the plan, with all three Democrats — Red Dawn Foster of Pine Ridge, leader Troy Heinert of Mission, and Reynold Nesiba of Sioux Falls — supporting it. The Republican holdouts were Jim Bolin of Canton, who steadfastly argued for his own plan, and Julie Frye-Mueller of Rapid City.

“We worked really hard to get us to this point,” Senator Mary Duvall said.

“The work that we all did together has earned my vote today,” said Heinert.

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