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“This is heading to the Supreme Court...” South Dakota House, Senate no closer to redistricting deal

 Super Blue Blood Moon over the South Dakota State Capitol; Photo courtesy of Keith Hemmelman
Super Blue Blood Moon over the South Dakota State Capitol; Photo courtesy of Keith Hemmelman (KSFY)
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 8:58 PM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. - After months of back and forth and one day of a special session, the South Dakota State Legislature is at a stand still 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.

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 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).

Ultimately, if the clock strikes midnight and the chambers can’t agree on one final map, both will walk away less than satisfied, leaving the state Supreme Court in charge of deciding what the next ten years look like for the state’s legislative districts.

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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