Legislators propose Rapid City-area districts — but they want more time on Sioux Falls options

Capitol News Bureau

Photo courtesy South Dakota News Watch

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The Rapid City area’s proposed legislative districts should include neighboring Box Elder to the east, as well as Black Hawk and Summerset to the north in Meade County, too, a group of state lawmakers decided Thursday.

A next step will be to draw district boundaries within the Rapid City area’s election precincts. The panel also wants Lawrence County to remain as its own legislative district. “We’re on our way — only 34 more to go,” the Senate chair, Mary Duvall, said.

But when the chance came to choose one of three options for the Sioux Falls area, the House and Senate committees decided to wait. A special meeting is set for September 28, when people from Minnehaha and Lincoln counties can express their views.

House Republican leader Kent Peterson said a Sioux Falls-area location hadn’t been set yet for the 6 p.m. listening session.

The two redistricting committees plan to meet again September 22 at the Capitol to continue working on a map for the full Legislature to consider at a special session set for November 8-9. The panels also will meet September 30.

The new plan will have 35 districts as does the current one that’s been in place since the Legislature last drew different boundaries a decade ago for the 2012 elections. South Dakota redistricts every 10 years after the U.S. Census is conducted.

The population target this time is 25,333 per district, with a margin of plus or minus no more than 5%. Next month, the committees will travel across South Dakota for three days and nights to hear from the public. The schedule is:

Monday, October 11

Rapid City, Black Hills State University Center, 8 a.m.

Mission, Sinte Gleska University, 4 p.m.

Tuesday, October 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.

The committees discussed three Sioux Falls-area proposals Thursday but want to first hear the public’s thoughts before settling on a proposal.

— Senator Casey Crabtree offered a nine-district plan that wouldn’t include Hartford and Dell Rapids to the north in Minnehaha County.

— Senator Jim Bolin suggested 10 districts that would keep the Lincoln County communities of Tea, Harrisburg and Lennox together in a district.

— Representative Drew Dennert worked up a seven-district approach that would follow tightly the Sioux Falls city boundaries and leave the rest of Minnehaha County open to two of what he called “very heavily rural” districts.

Duvall said Dennert did his in about an hour Thursday during the meeting. “I think, out of fairness to everybody on the committee, including those who are participating remotely, there should be an opportunity for people to really look at this and think about this,” she said.

The panels also looked at potential majority-minority districts. Senate Democrat leader Troy Heinert, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, cautioned that the proposed map should recognize that each of the nine indigenous tribes has different values and comes from different lands and backgrounds.

A variety of people testified, some in person and some online, during the public comment portion of the meeting, Amy Scott-Stoltz of Sioux Falls, president for the South Dakota League of Women Voters, said putting Minnehaha and Lincoln counties’ urban and rural voters together in the same districts made no sense.

Former lawmaker Frank Kloucek of Scotland said that Bon Homme County had been unfairly split in the 2011 redistricting but couldn’t afford to fight in court. Kellen Returns From Scout, finance director for the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, called for a special single-seat House sub-district to better represent American Indians in Rapid City.

Said Minnehaha County Commission member Jeff Barth, “I know you’ll do your best — and I know we’ll all complain about it.”

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