S.D. House panel OKs a final redistricting plan, despite another warning that it could be illegal

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A House committee assigned to recommend new boundaries for South Dakota’s 35 legislative districts agreed on a final proposal Friday.

The panel voted 6-1 for the Grouse 2.1 plan. The lone no came from Representative Mike Derby, who preferred the Hawk 1,0 plan that he had developed.

The Senate committee meanwhile chose the Blackbird 2.0 proposal Monday.

The competing House and Senate plans probably will win initial approval from their respective sides November 8 when the special session on redistricting starts. From there, the matter looks likely to go to a conference committee of representatives and senators who, in theory, work toward a compromise.

Should the disagreement continue, the South Dakota Supreme Court would decide.

The districts will be used in legislative elections for the next decade starting in 2022. Republicans currently hold 62 of 70 House seats and 32 of 35 Senate seats, while Democrats hold the other 11.

Representative Jon Hansen said Friday that Grouse 2.1 would have two sets of single-member House sub-districts in districts 26 and 28, somewhat similar to South Dakota’s current layout.

Most districts elect one senator and two representatives. House sub-districts are used to protect voting rights for large populations of Native Americans who live in reservation areas of north-central and south-central South Dakota.

Hansen said sub-district 26A would have about 70% Native American population and 28A about 66%.

Bret Healy from Four Directions Native Vote told the panel Friday that the Grouse 2.0 map was “on its face” a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act for the racial makeup in proposed district 26 and that Grouse 2.1 was worse.

Representative Bethany Soye asked Healy what percentage would allow Native Americans to elect the candidates they want.

Healy said, “That is an expert determination not to be done on the back of an envelope.”

Soye asked whether it’s possible to get an estimate.

Yes, Healy answered, if experts could be found. But he noted the date, October 29, and said the process could take seven or eight days.

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