South Dakota lawmakers compromise on redistricting map in special session

In what would be considered a win for the South Dakota State Senate, lawmakers adopted a new state legislative map after months of heated debate.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has issued an executive order cracking down on federal...
(Dakota News Now)
Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 2:32 PM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. - After three long days, South Dakota has a new state legislative map for the next ten years.

Months of back-and-forth and three days of a special session that was originally only intended to last one day, ultimately led to the State House and Senate lawmakers agreeing on the “Sparrow” map.

The South Dakota State Legislature adopted the "Sparrow" map as the new state legislative...
The South Dakota State Legislature adopted the "Sparrow" map as the new state legislative district map.(SD LRC)

The State House voted 37-31 and the State Senate by a vote of 30-2 to approve the compromise.

The compromise passed despite the aversion of many more conservative House members. Representative Taffy Howard (R-Rapid City) brought an amendment to the House floor that would have effectively killed the “Sparrow” map and brought the legislature back at a later date. That amendment failed by a 29-39 vote.

Representative Drew Dennert (R-Aberdeen), who has been an integral part of the redistricting process, pointed to public testimony as reason why they should not pass the “Sparrow” map.

“The theme of this map is it is against the wishes of the people,” Dennert said on the House floor. “We had people showed up to testify from Moody County, saying don’t put Moody County in District 25, we did. People in Turner County said leave our county whole, we didn’t. They also said leave it (Turner County) with Clay County, we didn’t do that. Union County said that they didn’t want to be split, well we did that too.”

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

Where negotiations appeared most likely to stall out on Wednesday was in the area in and around Rapid City. Representative Chris Johnson (R-Rapid City) proposed an amendment during a Conference Committee to keep the urban and rural divide more stark in the area, and specifically in his district.

Johnson took over on the Conference Committee for Rep. Kent Peterson (R-Salem), who did not attend Wednesday’s session as a result of a medical emergency from the night before.

“There are +11,000 people that are getting moved out of an urban district, even though they are in an urban residential area,” Johnson said. “If you look, they are being displaced to a primarily rural district.”

Opponents to Johnson’s amendment argued that the alternative allowed for better representation of a large Native American population in northern Rapid City.

“I think the problem is dilution,” said State Sen. Red Dawn Foster (D-Pine Ridge). “Limiting the collective vote of Native Americans, putting them into a community that they are less of a percentage of the voter block, and it is diluting their potential vote.”

Governor Kristi Noem signed the “Sparrow” map into law within hours of its passage. Meaning that barring a lawsuit, South Dakota has it’s new map.

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