South Dakota coalition starts petition for independent redistricting commission

Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 10:52 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - This year, South Dakota lawmakers will re-draw the state’s legislative districts.

Redistricting happens every 10 years in coordination with the U.S. Census.

Right now, a coalition is forming with the goal of having an independent citizen commission handle redistricting, instead of legislators.

‘Drawn Together South Dakota’ is made up of Leagues of Women Voters and 20 other groups in the state.

The coalition has started a petition to get the independent redistricting commission on next year’s ballot.

Redistricting is the process of adjusting the lines of voting districts.

This is done every decade to make sure districts have nearly equal populations and do not discriminate based on race or ethnicity.

Those involved with ‘Drawn Together South Dakota,’ believe having legislators redistrict can lead to biased districts.

“When redistricting is done by the legislators it’s kind of like putting the fox inside the henhouse, it allows them to manipulate the maps and gerrymander, so the elections aren’t necessarily free and equal,” said Amy Scott-Stoltz from Drawn together South Dakota.

In the past, South Dakota has seen legal troubles come from redistricting.

“In 2000, so two redistricting sessions ago, the state lost a lawsuit on redistricting with the Native American Community,” said Scott-Stoltz.

There are some legislators who are against the independent redistricting commission.

“A similar proposal was brought forward in 2016 and was decisively defeated by the voters with 56 percent voting against it. No lawsuit was brought against the current map in South Dakota by any group,” said South Dakotan Republican Senator Jim Bolin.

He goes on to call the proposal “misguided” and not needed. He said he hopes it is rejected.

Other lawmakers believe the independent commission is needed for South Dakota.

“I think it really is needed, we have a supermajority of Republicans, but the legislature doesn’t reflect the makeup of the state of South Dakota,” said South Dakota House minority leader Jamie Smith.

Because the process of redistricting has already started, ‘Drawn Together South Dakota’ is hoping to have the independent commission be able to change district lines in a few years.

“Our ballot issue won’t get on the ballot until 2022 and then the independent redistricting community will redraw those lines in 2023,” said Scott-Stoltz.

‘Drawn Together South Dakota will be holding a petition signing event Saturday at the Icon Event Hall.

More information about them can be found by clicking here.

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