South Dakota House, Senate vote for redistricting maps in special session

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 3:41 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The South Dakota State Legislature is attempting to finalize a map for redistricting at a special session Monday.

After months of back and forth and one day of a special session, the South Dakota State Legislature is at a standstill as to how to proceed on redistricting.

Members from both chambers arrived at the State Capitol ahead of Monday’s special session intent on passing their agreed-upon plans. The House’s “Grouse 2.0,” passed the body by a vote of 48 to 20. The Senate’s plan, “Blackbird 2.0″ passed that full-body by a vote of 20 to 15. Both chambers then defeated the opposite map in their own body.

Both chambers then proceeded to vote down the opposite’s map, forcing a “conference committee” between the two chambers.

If the disagreement between the two chambers continues it will ultimately force the South Dakota Supreme Court to draw the lines. Lawmakers from both chambers have said they aren’t wholesale opposed to that idea at this point.

Accusations from lawmakers continue to be lobbed at the opposing chamber’s map, claiming that they constitute gerrymandering.

“This is for the people that aren’t thinking about running for the state legislature yet, it is for citizens across the whole state,” said State Sen. Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown). “We have to account for them, and also, this Voting Rights Act is no small issue.”

State Sen. Jim Bolin (R-Canton) was the main dissenter in the Senate to the map that passed there. Bolin offered an amendment that would have made Clay, Union, and Turner county two districts, as opposed to the three it is currently drawn out as in the Senate plan.

“The current map that is proposed by the committee is going to break up three counties in southeastern South Dakota,” Bolin explained. “It is going to break up Clay, Union, and Turner counties in an unnecessary fashion. I think it is only necessary for us to do that to two counties in southeastern South Dakota.”

The two chambers have already appointed three members from each body to a “conference committee,” which will meet Tuesday with the intention of trying to find a compromise between the two chambers. The three members from the House are Speaker Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham), Majority Leader Kent Peterson (R-Salem), and Ryan Cwach (D-Yankton). The Senate will be represented on the conference committee by Mary Duvall (R-Pierre), Red Dawn Foster (D-Pine Ridge), and Casey Crabtree (R-Madison).

The Senate committee approved its map by a vote of 5-2 in October, an improvement upon the first “Blackbird” map that was driven by input from legislators and the public.

The South Dakota Senate has come up with their final redistricting proposal for 2021, as...
The South Dakota Senate has come up with their final redistricting proposal for 2021, as proposed by State Sen. Mary Duvall (R-Pierre).(SD LRC)

The House’s proposed map was drafted largely by State Rep. Drew Dennert (R-Aberdeen).

The South Dakota State House has drafted this "Grouse 2.0" map as one of their final proposals...
The South Dakota State House has drafted this "Grouse 2.0" map as one of their final proposals going into the final stages of the state legislative redistricting process. As drafted largely by State Rep. Drew Dennert (R-Aberdeen).(SD LRC)

While compromise appears closer than before in the process, the maps still have major discrepancies. Most notable among them are the ways the area around Sioux Falls and around Aberdeen were handled.

The State Senate’s map splits the greater Brown County and Aberdeen area into three districts, where the House splits that same area into two. Around northwestern Sioux Falls, lawmakers have taken two different approaches in the way they have drawn districts as well. This distinction is most notable in District 25 and District 9.

However, members of the House State Affairs committee will return Tuesday morning to give a hearing to the Senate’s “Blackbird 2.0″ map.

“It takes two to tango, and we are not to the finish line,” said Kent Peterson. “My job is to worry about what we are doing.”

“This is going to the Supreme Court unless the House decides to pick some map that follows the law,” said Schoenbeck.

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