For first time, Supreme Court might have to set South Dakota legislative districts

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — It’s possible the House and Senate won’t agree Monday when lawmakers meet in special session on where to put boundaries for legislative districts that would apply in elections the next 10 years. If there is a stalemate, that duty, known as reapportionment, would fall, for the first time, upon the South Dakota Supreme Court.

South Dakota voters in 1982 amended the reapportionment section of the state constitution and handed the Supreme Court the duty to break a legislative deadlock on district boundaries. The five justices replaced a five-person board. The change won approval 122,704 to 112,184.

The section now reads:

The Legislature shall apportion its membership by dividing the state into as many single-member, legislative districts as there are state senators. House districts shall be established wholly within senatorial districts and shall be either single-member or dual-member districts as the Legislature shall determine. Legislative districts shall consist of compact, contiguous territory and shall have population as nearly equal as is practicable, based on the last preceding federal census. An apportionment shall be made by the Legislature in 1983 and in 1991, and every ten years after 1991. Such apportionment shall be accomplished by December first of the year in which the apportionment is required. If any Legislature whose duty it is to make an apportionment shall fail to make the same as herein provided, it shall be the duty of the Supreme Court within ninety days to make such apportionment.

Deleted was this sentence:

If any legislature whose duty it is to make an apportionment shall fail to make the same as herein provided that it shall be the duty of the Governor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Presiding Judge of the Supreme Court, Attorney General and Secretary of State within thirty (30) days after the adjournment of the legislature to make such apportionment and when so made a proclamation is issued by the Governor announcing such apportionment the same shall have the same force and effect as though made by the Legislature.

The House has a proposal. The Senate has a different one.

Since the 1982 amendment, the Supreme Court has been called upon a handful of times on reapportionment matters. Those decisions included:

A four-justice majority in 1991 declined to deliver an advisory opinion to Governor George S. Mickelson on whether all House districts must be split into single-member sub-districts if one is.

A three-justice majority in 2000 ruled in Emery v. Hunt that the Legislature violated the state constitution when it redrew legislative boundaries in 1996.

The court in 2005 ruled unanimously in Bone Shirt v. Hazeltine that the Legislature improperly drew two districts.

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