S.D. lawmakers to get census data sooner

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota will receive 2020 U.S. Census data for legislative redistricting on August 16, six weeks earlier than had been expected, a staff member said Tuesday.

Legislative Research Council lawyer Matt Frame delivered the news to a joint meeting of the Senate and House Legislative Redistricting committees.

The LRC staff can start drawing maps for the committees about one week later, Frame said.

The Legislature has been called to the Capitol for a special session November 8 that, at this point, will solely focus on redistricting.

Other topics, such as marijuana legislation, might also be considered when the lawmakers return to Pierre. That would require a special session called by Governor Kristi Noem or signatures from two-thirds of each chamber’s members.

Frame briefed the redistricting panel Tuesday on the various federal court decisions that should be kept in mind, including a South Dakota case, Bone Shirt v. Hazeltine.

The 2006 decision directed that more than one district be created for the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations.

A subsequent federal decision removed states from needing U.S. Department of Justice pre-clearance. Frame suggested the current redistricting committees nonetheless remain cautious.

“Even if that means we might have to establish some additional meetings, or whatever that might look like, in order to achieve that objective and avoid what happened,” he said.

Frame also showed software that will be used.

The South Dakota Constitution requires the Legislature draw new districts every 10 years based on the most recent U.S. Census results.

The South Dakota Supreme Court can take over if the Legislature doesn’t finish by December 1.

The current map has 35 Senate districts. There are two House seats in each Senate district. The constitution says there can be not less than 25 Senate districts and not more than 35.

Frame said the House and Senate redistricting committees need to decide how the process will work, including whether staff can accept maps submitted by legislators who aren’t committee members and what role the public should have.

“I think that would be helpful so that we make sure we’re achieving your aims and objectives,” he said.

It was the committee’s second meeting. Public hearings are set for:

Monday, October 11, Rapid City 9 a.m. CT /8 a.m. MT;

Monday, October 11, Mission, 3 p.m. CT;

Tuesday, October 12, Mobridge, 8 a.m. CT;

Tuesday, October 12, Aberdeen, 1 p.m. CT;

Tuesday, October 12, Watertown, 5 p.m.; and

Wednesday, October 13, two in Sioux Falls, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. CT.

Those dates were announced at the committee’s first meeting in March. Unlike 10 years ago, the panel won’t break into subcommittees for those hearings.

“It is our intent to do everything together,” said Representative Spencer Gosch. The House speaker chairs his chamber’s half of the redistricting committee.

Senator Mary Duvall, who chairs her chamber’s half, said there have been discussions about using technology for people to testify remotely.

“That is our goal, to make this just really open and transparent to everything,” Duvall said.

Meanwhile a group of Sioux Falls residents continued with an attempt to change the process.

De Knudson, Scott Heidepriem and Vernon Brown are working with the South Dakota League of Women Voters to amend the state constitution.

Underway is an effort to gather signatures to put a measure on the November 2022 statewide election ballot. It would let voters decide whether a nine-member commission should replace the Legislature as the body setting boundaries for the 35 legislative districts.

If the proposal makes the ballot and a majority of voters agree, the proposed new panel would draw the lines in 2023 for the Legislature’s 2024 elections.

It would have no more than three members from a political party.

Currently Republicans control the Legislature, with 94 seats to the Democrats’ 11, and they have 12 of 15 on the redistricting committees.

Amy Scott Stoltz of Sioux Falls is the League of Women Voters state president. The league is coordinating the petition effort.

“We are currently circulating across the state with many different South Dakota organizations involved.  We do expect that we will be able to collect enough signatures to get on the 2022 ballot and we are expecting to do it without having to hire outside circulators,” she said.

The petition group plans to submit maps and what are known as communities of interest — areas that have similar concerns — to the legislative redistricting committees after the committee members decide how they will accept public input.

“We are also working on redistricting education throughout the state, and will encourage all South Dakotans to attend the public meetings the legislative redistricting committees will have in October,” she said.

To get their proposed amendment on the ballot, they’ll need to submit at least 33,921 valid signatures of South Dakota registered voters to the South Dakota Secretary of State no later than November 8.

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