On redistricting, S.D. lawmakers find the middle

Capitol News Bureau

New district lines take effect for the 2022 elections and continue through 2030. You can view the full new map online at sdlegislature.gov

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Thousands of South Dakota voters will find different names of legislative candidates on their ballots next year, after state lawmakers compromised Wednesday on a plan that changes boundaries for many of the 35 legislative districts.

The final plan won approval from the House of Representatives 37-31 and from the Senate 30-2. The Legislature resets district boundaries each decade following completion of the US population census.

The new lines take effect for the 2022 elections and continue through 2030. Many current legislators who can seek re-election face the prospect of now running in different areas.

“We know not everybody likes it, but this is an agreement we came to,” Senator Mary Duvall said during the House-Senate conference committee meeting that formally proposed the compromise Wednesday morning.

District 31 — Lawrence County — was one that didn’t change. The county’s population of 25,768 was within 1.72% of the 25,333 statewide target.

Representative Chris Johnson was the only member of the House-Senate conference committee to vote against the final proposal. Johnson said it would remove more than 11,000 people from District 32 in Rapid City and replace them with a different 11,000. “Why do we need to do this?” he asked.

Representative Drew Dennert warned that the map could be found unconstitutional under state law because the 12.8% variation range of population was larger than the 10% standard. The Senate refused to accept his proposal.

“The theme of this map is against the wishes of the people,” Dennert said. He voted no.

In past decades, a single committee brought one proposal. This year, the House and Senate leaders appointed separate panels. That worked until about a month ago, when each committee proposed its own plan.

The special session that began Monday took three days of closed-door negotiations to get a final product.

“It’s been a very trying week,” House Speaker Spencer Gosch said. He voted no, while House Republican leader Kent Peterson, who participated by phone, voted yes.

Seven Democrats’ ayes wound up as the difference for getting the bill through the House, where more Republicans voted against it than for it.

“It’s definitely a bipartisan bill,” Senate Republican leader Gary Cammack said.

Lawmakers had another motivation to push across the finish line. The South Dakota Supreme Court would be responsible for drawing boundaries if the Legislature didn’t have the lines done by December 1.

“I think we need to do our job and not let it go to the Supreme Court,” Representative Mark Willadsen told reporters.

Representative Taffy Howard asked the House to refuse the compromise. “I think we owe it to the people of this state to get this right,” Howard said. She accused the Senate of bullying the House. She wanted to start the process over again.

Representative Will Mortenson resisted Howard’s attempt. “I don’t think we should confuse right and perfect,” he said.

Representative Bethany Soye agreed with Howard. “I would like to argue this process is not even right,” she said. She pointed out how the Senate redistricting committee took a vote on a proposal that wasn’t on its agenda.

“This map was not created in good faith,” Soye said. “We are a sovereign body and need to stand up for ourselves.”

Representative Nancy York said redistricting didn’t seem to be a hot topic for many voters. “A lot of people don’t even know what we’re doing out here,” York said. “The voters don’t care.”

At A Glance

Current map: https://sdlegislature.gov/Legislators/Find

2022 map: https://mylrc.sdlegislature.gov/api/documents/223421.pdf

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