South Dakota's Redistricting News
News: "State loses redistricting lawsuit" September 15, 2004
The South Dakota Legislature unlawfully diluted the voting strength of American Indians when it redrew legislative district boundaries in 2001, U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier said Wednesday.
Ruling on the behalf of four Indian voters in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the judge ordered the state to reconsider Legislative Districts 26 and 27, which include the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations.
"This is a milestone in correcting a system that has alienated my people from the political process for decades," said Alfred Bone Shirt, a Sicangu Lakota activist and the lead plaintiff in the case.
"We have the right to have a say in the direction of our future," he added.
The state attorney general's office had argued that the South Dakota Legislature did not violate federal law when it approved boundaries for those districts.
ACLU lawyers argued that three factors indicating vote dilution exist in the redistricting plan. The lawsuit was lodged after the Legislature redrew the boundaries of South Dakota's 35 legislative districts to take into account population changes measured in the 2000 census.
ACLU claimed that the Legislature violated federal laws by weakening Indians' voting strength.
Schreier agreed that the redistricting plan violates the federal Voting Rights Act. She said the plan illegally diluted Indians' voting strength by placing a super majority of Indians in District 27 - resulting in denial of equal political opportunities for Indians on the two reservations.
The federal judge said the Legislature "must afford Indians in both Districts 26 and 27 a realistic and fair opportunity to elect their preferred candidates."
District 27 encompasses Todd County and the Rosebud reservation and a big part of the Pine Ridge reservation in Shannon County. It also includes a connecting strip across southern Bennett County between the two reservations.
Voters in District 27 regularly elect Indian candidates to the state Senate and House.
District 26 includes the northern half of Bennett County, plus Jackson, Haakon, Jones, Mellette, Lyman and Tripp counties. It usually elects non-Indian legislators.
Schreier said just one Indian candidate has run for the Legislature in District 26 since 1982 while many Indians have run for office in District 27 because of its large majority of Indians.
Noting that there are only four Indian-majority seats in the 105-member Legislature, she said the redistricting plan lacks proportionality.
"For Indian voters to achieve proportionality in relation to their approximate share of the voting-age population, the 2001 plan would have to contain nine majority-Indian seats," Schreier said.
After the 2001 Legislature left District 27 essentially unchanged, the ACLU said the redistricting plan diluted voting rights for Indians in District 26, where Indians make up about one-third of the population.
ACLU and its plaintiffs said the boundaries of Districts 26 and 27 should instead have been drawn to give Indians a better chance of electing their candidates in both districts.
"This is a landmark victory for the voting rights of Native Americans," said Bryan Sells, an attorney with ACLU's Voting Rights Project.
"Redistricting has historically been used to disenfranchise minority voters," he said Wednesday in a written statement. "Today's decision will help rectify this long-standing problem."
"If the state had drawn the districts more fairly, Native Americans would have been a majority in two districts instead of a 90 percent super majority in only one," Sells said. "The people on those reservations deserve to have at least one more person fighting for them in the Legislature."
The state argued that the ACLU failed to demonstrate the three factors that are required to indicate that minority voters' rights were harmed.
There was no proof that Indians could make up a majority in a new single-member district, that Indians are politically cohesive, or that the white majority usually votes as a bloc to defeat candidates preferred by Indians, the state argued.
Attorney General Larry Long had no immediate response to Wednesday's 144-page ruling, but planned to issue a statement Thursday.
House Speaker Matthew Michels, R-Yankton, said Wednesday that the Legislature did not intend to disenfranchise Indian voters.
"I do believe that we did this correctly, but it's just a very, very complex area of the law," he said. "I think the motives are pure on both sides of this, and we just have to deal with the issue now of how we handle it."
Michels said an appeal is possible but that decision will not be made until after consultations with the attorney general. If the decision is made not to appeal, a special legislative session may be necessary, he said.
Senate Republican leader Eric Bogue, of Faith, said the Legislature's Executive Board will have to decide whether to appeal. Bogue said he's concerned that Schreier's ruling could affect the November election because ballots have already been printed.
Tinkering with the boundaries of one legislative district could affect several districts, he said.
"It's a frustrating set of circumstances," Bogue said.
Schreier gave the state 45 days to draw new district lines, and the judge gave the plaintiffs 30 days beyond that to file any objections.
Although the decision may not directly impact the Nov. 2 general election, it could strengthen Indian voters' confidence and result in increased Indian turnout at the polls, said Sells, the ACLU attorney.
South Dakota has repeatedly flouted the 1965 Voting Rights Act at the expense of Indians, said Jennifer Ring, executive director of the ACLU of the Dakotas.
"The current plan is not permissible," she said.
"The Voting Rights Act was created to ensure that state governments do not discriminate against traditionally marginalized and oppressed populations," Ring said.
SIOUX FALLS - A civil rights group has challenged election districts in Buffalo County, saying they discriminate against American Indian voters and candidates.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union, is the fifth such action taken in South Dakota in the past year.
The cases show the prevalence of unfair voting practices in the state, an ACLU lawyer said.
''This is one of several cases . . . to address the racial gerrymandering that has taken place in many parts of South Dakota,'' said Patrick Duffy, of Rapid City, a lawyer involved in the lawsuit. ''When you see that the white majority - and minority - has taken steps to pack all the Indians in one area, you have to give pause.''
The ACLU already has challenged voting districts in the town of Martin and a state legislative district change in southwest South Dakota. Earlier this month, an agreement was reached in the group's legal challenge to the election policies of the Wagner School District.
In a legal challenge last summer, the ACLU accused South Dakota's secretary of state of violating federal law by not submitting state laws affecting voting districts to the federal government. That lawsuit also has been settled.
The Buffalo County lawsuit, filed on behalf of three American Indian voters living on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, seeks a court order to dissolve existing district lines and create new, nondiscriminatory districts.
The existing boundaries weaken Indian numbers by placing a majority of them in one district, according to the lawsuit. A redrawn district would equally distribute the number of people in the county into the three districts.
According to the ACLU's complaint, the ''one person, one vote'' principle of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires state and local governments to draw equally populated voting districts every 10 years.
If the court rules that the districts should be redrawn, a special election would need to be held, said Bryan Sells, a staff lawyer with the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.
''Native Americans are the overwhelming majority in Buffalo County, but the existing district lines ensure that the county's white minority controls the county commission,'' he said. ''This is the most glaring example of political apartheid that I have seen anywhere in the United States.''
Buffalo County commissioners reviewed the districts last year but decided against making any changes. They were not reachable for comment.
South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson said the state has addressed the issue of redistricting in the past.
In September 2001, the annual meeting of South Dakota counties had redistricting as its focus.
Jennifer Ring, executive director of the ACLU of the Dakotas, said more such challenges are likely.
''I think there are a lot of areas around the state where a growing Native American population is not achieving the political success that their numbers should show they should,'' she said.
Rapid City Journal
A national restructuring of the Veterans Administration to
outpatient care is not expected to force the closing of any facilities in South Dakota, a VA spokesman said. 8
The overhaul will mean closing or scaling back operations in some cities, though those d
ecisions won't be made for more than a year. 8
"I wouldn't say that we're ahead of the game, but we're already with the trend nationwide toward more outpatient care," Shirley Redmond, a public-affairs officer with the Sioux Falls VA Medical Center, said. 8"People don't want to come and spend months or weeks in the hospital. We try to treat them so they can go home and spend time with their families and be close to their roots, just like the private sector (health care) is trying to do."
Redmond said the Sioux Falls VA Medical Center is embracing the outpatient-care philosophy with its $3.6 million clinical addition, which will provide the facility with more exam and patient-education rooms as well as a revamped pharmacy.
At present, the waiting list for some treatments at the Sioux Falls VA center is backed up until October 2003. A VA clinic was opened in Aberdeen last year to help alleviate the demands on the Sioux Falls VA and provide closer services for veterans in northeastern South Dakota. But so many veterans began going there that the clinic no longer is accepting new patients.
Redmond said that in the past three years combined, the VA health system nationwide has seen a 20 percent increase in patient visits and that this trend could continue, although the number of veterans in the nation is expected to shrink.
"We don't have a crystal ball, but we do know that there are still veterans out there who aren't using our services," she said.
Decisions about where to cut and where to add will be made after analyses of demographics and services available at 163 hospitals and more than 1,000 clinics, nursing homes and other facilities.
South Dakota's new plan for realigning legislative districts dilutes Native American voting rights and never got the required federal clearance, according to a group that has challenged the plan in court.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Pierre to block the plan that passed the Legislature in October.
Federal law requires jurisdictions that have discriminated in the past to get federal approval before approving new redistricting plans, said Bryan Sells, lead counsel for the ACLU's Voting Rights Project in Atlanta. One such area in South Dakota is Shannon and Todd counties, he said.
"There is no question the Legislature did not submit it (the plan)," Sells said. "Their obligation to do so is crystal clear."
State Rep. Mike Derby, R-Rapid City, co-chairman of the redistricting committee, said the U.S. Justice Department would not look at the plan until the Legislature passed it.
"It was kind of a chicken-and-egg thing. So in our minds, we said, 'What good is pre-clearance?' " Derby said.
He said he doesn't know if the state has submitted the plan since the October special session.
Larry Long, chief deputy attorney general, said state officials had not been served with summonses as of Friday. He said he was frustrated he could not see the lawsuit before the ACLU publicized it.
After the Legislature adopted the plan, Long said his office could defend it because it complied with the Voting Rights Act.
The lawsuit asks a judge to stop the plan as it applies to Shannon and Todd counties in District 27 and any other district that would be affected.
The suit also claims the reapportionment dilutes voting rights for Indians in District 26, where Indians make up about one-third of the population. The boundaries should have been drawn to give Indians the majority in both districts, the ACLU said.
"If they had done redistricting a little bit more equitably, the Native Americans in District 26 would be able to elect at least one House member and possibly more," Sells said.
District 26 includes the northern half of Bennett plus Jackson, Haakon, Jones, Mellette, Lyman and Tripp counties. District 27 includes Shannon and Todd counties and the southern half of Bennett County.
South Dakota Democrats lost the battle over new legislative districts during a special session that ended before noon Wednesday, but their House leader probably won honors for best sound bite.
"It could be worse," said Rep. Mel Olson of Mitchell after the Republican majority had defeated the last effort in the House to change a map of new legislative districts endorsed by a GOP-controlled committee earlier this month and passed Tuesday on a party-line vote in the Senate.
"For that I am deeply grateful, but I will not vote for this map," Olson said just before the 48-19 roll-call that completed action on the redistricting issue and allowed legislators to adjourn their scheduled three-day session midway through the second day.
South Dakota has 35 legislative districts. In all but one instance each district has one senator and two representatives. As nearly as possible, each district must contain an equal number of residents. New boundaries had to be drawn to account for population shifts documented by the 2000 census. The new districts will be effective in legislative elections held next year.
Republican House Leader Bill Peterson of Sioux Falls said his party, with large voting advantages in both houses of the Legislature, could have been far more partisan.
"I think we've done ourselves proud," Peterson said. "By far, the majority of districts will be competitive. We could have put Democrat incumbents together."
The map has only two areas where incumbents, if they all choose to run again, will be pitted in party primaries.
One is in the Clark area, and that's because Republican Rep. Jim Holbeck, elected from Parker, has moved to Clark. That puts him in a district that already includes Republican Reps. Art Fryslie of Willow Lake and Al Koistinen of Goodwin.
The other is a district that stretches from Lyman County at the Missouri river west to the Pennington County line. Republican Reps. Kent Juhnke of Vivian and Barry Jensen of White River are already in that district, and Republican Rep. Cooper Garnos of Presho, who had been in a district that reached to Pierre and Fort Pierre, will become the third incumbent.
"If we all run, we all run," said Juhnke. "I didn't like that plan for myself, but you can only do so many different things and still make the state map work."
The GOP map hit at Democrats not by pitting incumbents against each other but by slicing into traditionally Democrat strongholds. Beadle County, for example, was divided, and incumbent Democrat Rep. Charlie Flowers of Iroquois in the eastern part of the county will be separated from many of his former voters farther west. Moody County was split, and efforts to restore it failed in both houses.
"I do feel it's a partisan plan, I do feel it splits up Beadle and Moody for partisan purposes," said Democrat Rep. Frank Kloucek of Scotland.
The numbers and need to keep districts relatively equal dictated many decisions, Peterson said.
"Beadle County is an area of our state that is losing population," he said. "I believe the split was done in such a way that we protected communities of interest."
Republican Rep. Clarence Kooistra of Garretson came closest to changing the map on the House floor with an amendment he said would have restored Turner County, which had the northwest corner clipped and moved into a district with three counties to the west and south. He wanted all of Turner attached to Clay County. Turner was divided 10 years ago, so it has the right to be whole this time, he said.
"Turner County shouldn't be a political football, should not be kicked around," Kooistra said.
The split means voters in Turner County can call two sets of legislators with their problems, said Holbeck, who lived in Parker when he was elected last time.
"I wish I knew why it's so important to keep counties whole," he said.
Kooistra's effort failed on a 25-42 vote. That's 11 short of a majority in the House. None of the other five proposed map changes got as many votes.
The final product creates seven districts that include all or parts of Sioux Falls, one more than in the current configuration. Two of those districts, one in the northcentral part of the city and the other north of that from east of I-229 west across I-29 and on toward Hartford, have a majority of registered Democrat voters. The other five have more Republicans.
"They created a second Democrat district and strengthened the ones that were Republican," County Auditor Sue Roust said after the vote.
In the end, Olson said the map accomplished several noble purposes. It equalized populations and protected voting rights of Native Americans in key reservation areas of the state, he said.
"We will always have, I'm not exaggerating, people who represent a few blocks of Sioux Falls and people who represent half the state," Olson said.
But several maps the summer committee and the full Legislature considered split fewer counties than the final Republican map did, he said, and sometimes there was no need to divide a county to achieve equal populations.
Peterson said it was impossible to avoid giving Republicans advantages in some parts of the state because the GOP voter registration numbers have grown while Democrat voter numbers have fallen.
"Candidly, this is a map that does benefit Republicans in some respects, but it does so because South Dakota has become more Republican," Peterson said.
Republicans have added about 20,000 registered voters since 1980, while Democrats have lost about the same number, he said.
"As a consequence of this, you are going to see a political shift in representation," Peterson said.
Figures from the secretary of state's office show 206,411 registered Republicans and 202,052 registered Democrats in 1980. In 2000 the numbers were 226,906 Republican and 181,129 Democrat. The number of voters registered independent, Libertarian, reform or other grew from 39,045 in 1980 to 63,117 in 2000.
Reach Terry Woster at 605-224-2760 or [email protected]
South Dakota House members get their crack today at a map of new legislative districts the Senate passed Tuesday.
"We'll go in at 9 a.m. and work until we're finished," said House Republican Leader Bill Peterson of Sioux Falls. If Peterson is correct, the Legislature won't need the last of a three-day special session set aside to draw new district boundaries based on the 2000 census.
The map of new legislative boundaries - substantially the same as that drawn by a Republican-controlled summer committee - cleared the Senate 22-12 following more than two hours of debate and caucuses.
Democrats in the Senate, who hold just 11 of the 35 seats, cried politics during and after the debate, but they were powerless to alter the map.
They tried, though, arguing that the GOP-endorsed map splits more counties, and does so needlessly, than did other plans the summer committee looked at and rejected. The fewer divided counties South Dakota has, the less confusion there is for voters and the less expense there is in printing election ballots, said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Hutmacher of Oacoma.
"I know we can't keep everyone happy, but there are several things we can do to make things more palatable to counties," Hutmacher said.
He tried unsuccessfully to substitute a map that he said split only counties too large to be a voting unit. With the latest census, the perfect legislative district should be home to 21,567 people. South Dakota has 35 districts with nearly equal population and containing, in all but one instance, one senator and two representatives.
Republican Senate Leader Barb Everist of Sioux Falls said Hutmacher's proposed districts would raise legal questions about whether Native American people on the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock reservations of north-central South Dakota were being given proper representation. She said the Hutmacher plan trimmed the Native American majority in that district to about 55 percent, far below the 65 percent majority she said is required to meet federal voting rights standards in such areas.
"Those numbers are ridiculously low for what is required," Everist said.
Hutmacher's move failed 11-22.
Democrat Sen. Garry Moore of Yankton said politics was behind the map the GOP favored, and he said citizens would be confused over divided counties and new configurations for districts.
"What are the voters going to think when they see a map like this?" he asked.
Democratic Sen. Dan Sutton of Flandreau failed to persuade his colleagues to change the map to put all of Moody County into one district. That county currently is part of a district that also includes Lake County and part of Minnehaha County. The new boundaries place northern Moody County in a district that runs north along the state border and the rest of the county in a second district that stretches west through Lake, Miner and Sanborn counties.
But Republican Sen. Don Brosz of Watertown said Sutton's alternative splits Codington County three ways.
"Codington has been split two ways. And we are faced with people saying, 'I happen to live in a sacred cow. You can't split my county, so go ahead and split Codington three ways,' " Brosz said.
The Sutton effort failed, 11-23.
The Senate agreed to shift three precincts involving fewer than 300 people from one district to another in Meade County and made a change in boundaries in the Aberdeen area. Both those requests came from Republicans.
Another Republican, however, failed to change the plan and create single-member House districts across the state.
Dupree Sen. Eric Bogue's northwestern South Dakota district has the only single-member House district in South Dakota. While he is elected by voters in a six-county area numbered District 28, that same land is divided for House purposes. The people in the eastern part of the district, 28A, including the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock reservations, vote for one House member, while people in the western half, 28B, vote for a different House member. In all other districts, voters pick one Senate and two House candidates.
"With my amendment, we're just saying everyone is the same," Bogue said.
His attempted change failed on a voice vote.
The single-member district was created 10 years ago specifically to assure Native American voters in the reservation counties a better opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. In public testimony before the Senate debate began, two residents of the Cheyenne River Reservation said they like the divided district.
Madonna Thunder Hawk of Swiftbird and Brenda Blue Arm of Eagle Butte told legislators they appreciated that their concerns had been heard.
A representative of the ACLU, however, told legislators an additional single-member district should be created in the south-central part of the state. That wasn't proposed by the summer committee, and it wasn't suggested during Senate debate.
Jennifer Ring of the ACLU said the growing Native American population justifies creating another district in which that group holds a majority.
Mary Ann Bear Heels McCowan, a Pierre resident and member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, agreed.
"We have a growing population, and we should have growing representation," she said.
Bogue joined the 11 Democrats in voting against the final version of the redistricting bill.
In the end, a map of new legislative boundaries endorsed by Republicans on a redistricting committee almost surely will be adopted during a special session that opens today.
First, though, lawmakers, local officials and citizens get a chance to comment and complain about the way those proposed new districts affect their part of South Dakota.
And while it's difficult to change one piece of the plan without creating ripples that throw the numbers off across the rest of the state, representatives of Moody, Meade and Beadle counties, among others, may well try.
The Legislature has 35 legislative districts, each with one senator and, with one exception, two representatives. After every census, new district boundaries must be drawn to reflect population shifts and keep, as nearly as possible, the same number of residents in each district.
The special redistricting session begins at 10 a.m. today with an update by Gov. Bill Janklow on the state's responses in the wake of a Sept. 11 terrorist attack and anthrax postal scares.
After Janklow's appearance, lawmakers are to gather in the House chamber to listen to public testimony.
That's when Democrat Sen. Dan Sutton of Flandreau plans to begin making a case against the section of the map that divides Moody County between two legislative districts.
"I didn't know until the redistricting committee finished its recommendations that anyone was even thinking of splitting the county," Sutton said. "It wasn't talked about all summer. It just showed up the last day."
Sutton has been representing a district that includes all of Moody and Lake counties as well as northwestern Minnehaha County. The new plan recommends that a piece of northern Moody County be joined to most of Brookings County and all of Deuel and Grant counties. The southern part of Moody would be part of a district stretching west through Lake, Miner and Sanborn counties.
"That's more than 100 miles," Sutton said. "I think the people in Sanborn County deserve representation, but I'm not sure they want that representation to be from Moody County. Hopefully, we can convince a majority of legislators that there must be a better way."
The summer committee considered but rejected a map that placed all of Moody County with much of rural Minnehaha County. Sutton said that would be better than the panel's final product, which passed on a party-line vote, with the Republican majority carrying the day.
Republican Senate Leader Barb Everist of Sioux Falls said that vote shouldn't be interpreted to mean either party was gaining an advantage in the map process.
"I think the Democrat votes against the committee's recommendation reflected a desire to reserve the right to talk about this more during the special session," Everist said. "I know our final recommendation attempted to keep similar interests within districts, and I can guarantee that when we're finished, whatever plan we finally adopt, not everyone will walk away happy."
Some Democrats said they voted against the committee map because other plans held more counties together and distributed the population more evenly. Republicans control both houses of the Legislature, and their advantage in voter registration has increased in the past decade.
Before the 1990 general election, South Dakota had 207,036 registered Republican voters and 180,181 registered Democrats, records from the secretary of state's office show. The registration numbers before the 2000 general election show 226,906 Republicans and 181,129 Democrats.
The ideal legislative district after the 2000 census includes 21,567 people. Yankton and Lawrence counties are almost exactly the right size for a district. In the rest of the state, some counties had to be divided or joined with others to achieve the right populations.
Meade County was split 10 years ago, with a southwest corner around Black Hawk being clipped off and attached to the Rapid City area. Some residents of that area pleaded with the committee last summer to unite them with the rest of Meade County. The recommended map, however, not only continues that division but also splits the northeast corner of the county into a third district.
County Commissioner Curtis Nupen said that dilutes the political strength of the area, especially the rapidly growing valley around Black Hawk. He has promised the argument will continue when public testimony begins.
Beadle County likely will receive considerable attention, too. The current district plan has all of that county joined with the southeast part of Spink County to create a district.
The recommendation for the next 10 years is that western Beadle County combine with Hand and Jerauld counties to make one district and eastern Beadle be linked with Clark, Kingsbury, Hamlin and rural Codington counties.
The Beadle County area has a record of sending Democrats to the Legislature, and Democrat Sen. Bob Duxbury of Wessington said the proposed new district would dilute his party's voting strength.
"There are any number of other ways to draw the maps without doing this to Beadle County," he said. "They talk about keeping similar interests together, but this divides people who really are alike."
The new district also would put Duxbury's Senate seat together with the one held by Democrat Ron Volesky of Huron. That wouldn't result in a primary race because Volesky is running for his party's nomination for governor. It would, however, concentrate Democratic party strength into one district instead of two.
Republican Rep. Tom Hansen of Huron said he thinks the proposed Beadle County configuration is the way the committee found to make population numbers work in an area of the state that is losing people.
"Just the fact of the population shifts means we have to have a little more geography out here than they do in Sioux Falls or Rapid City," Hansen said. "Maybe I'm naive, but I'm not sure I see a political advantage either way. I've told people any of the configurations I've seen, I guess I can live with."
The one place on the proposed map where incumbents of the same party clearly would be tossed together is west of the Missouri River in the south central part of the state. Republican Reps. Kent Juhnke of Vivian and Barry Jensen of White River represent that area.
The new map adds Lyman County and Republican Rep. Cooper Garnos of Presho to the mix.
"That's the only one where we've seen a direct contest," said Laura Schoen of the state Republican Party. "We've not studied it in detail, so someone may come up tomorrow and say here's another, but we haven't heard that yet."
Sioux Falls districts
The proposed map outlines seven districts that include parts of Sioux Falls, compared to six in the current structure. Everist was instrumental in the Sioux Falls boundary decisions, and some Democrats are expected to argue for a version that spreads new districts more west and east than the plan Everist wrote.
Republican Rep. Casey Murschel of Sioux said she isn't convinced the proposed city boundaries are bad, but she wants to talk about the lines and the reasons they were drawn as they were.
The new boundaries for the district she represents would reach from central Sioux Falls down to Tea.
"People are really unaware of what this will look like," Murschel said. "If I could, I'd divide the pie into wedges, so that each district in this area would include some of old Sioux Falls, residential, commercial, developing and outlying. I hope we can talk about this, to become informed on what produced the recommendations."
Everist promises time to talk, with public testimony beginning today. She won't predict how long the session could last. Ten years ago it was over in a day, but lawmakers had to return a few weeks later because one of the legal descriptions of a district boundary was incorrect.
"I'm not guaranteeing we'll do it in a day," Everist said. "We aren't going to hurry up and do it wrong. I'd rather do it right in two days than have to return later. We set aside three days if needed, so we can take the time to be accurate."
Reach Terry Woster at 605-224-2760 or [email protected]
Rapid City Journal
The South Dakota Legislature�s redistricting committee voted 10 to 4 along party lines Tuesday to send a proposed map of new legislative districts to the entire Legislature.
Lawmakers will meet in special session from Tuesday through Thursday, Oct. 23-25, to adopt a new district map as the result of the 2000 federal census. Under federal law, the group has until Dec. 1 to adopt a plan, or the state Supreme Court would do so.
Rep. Mel Olson, D-Mitchell, called the map �gerrymandered� and said he did not like the fact that the map divides up counties unnecessarily.
�There were maps, and there were more than one, that kept the counties together,� Olson said.
Rep. Jay Duenwald, R-Hoven, introduced the map that was adopted.
�Nobody wants to be split, but it boils down to numbers, and somebody�s going to have to be split. It may not be perfect, but it comes awfully close� he said.
Sen. Eric Bogue, R-Dupree, backed the plan, perhaps reluctantly.
�This meets the classic lawsuit-settlement criteria. It makes everybody equally unhappy,� Bogue said.
Situations from West River dominated the substantive decisions made by the 15-member redistricting committee. Maps can be viewed at the Legislative Research Council Web site, http://legis.state.sd.us/-index.cfm.
The committee approved the proposal by Rep. Matt Michels, R-Yankton, to depart from a guideline it had adopted this summer to not create any single-member House of Representatives districts.
Voters in each of South Dakota�s 35 legislative districts elect two representatives and one senator. The exception is District 28, where the state Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Legislature could not eliminate the special district except when the entire state is subject to redistricting.
South Dakota should keep the special district drawn to favor the Lakota residents of both the Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux reservations, the committee decided in a 13 to 2 vote.
�There seems to be a strong community there,� Michels said.
The new District 28A would resemble the current district but would not include the towns of McLaughlin and Wakpala in northern Corson County.
The American Civil Liberties Union urged the committee to keep District 28A to comply with minority voting-rights requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Executive Director of the ACLU of the Dakotas Jennifer Ring said she was happy with the vote on 28A but wants the Legislature to create a second American Indian-weighted House district around the Crow Creek and Lower Brule reservations.
Bogue and Rep. Kent Juhnke, R-Vivian, voted against the special House district.
Bogue represents District 28 and said he did not want his district split.
Bogue said he did not disagree with carving out a special district for the Lakota, but he said he could not vote to split his district because doing so violated the �one man, one vote� principal.
Even though nearly all maps considered throughout the summer lumped Corson County with its neighbors east of the Missouri River, the committee decided to keep the county in the West River District 28.
The county, in north central South Dakota, lies within both the current District 28 and the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
It includes a significant white ranching population. Corson County is split between Districts 28A and 28B under the committee�s plan.
Corson County Commissioner Mary Hollenbeck told the committee that her constituents wanted to stay in a West River district.
�East River does not have the problems we do, not a full understanding of the problems we face,� she said.
Black Hawk/Ellsworth Air Force Base
Earlier pleadings from Meade County officials that their county be kept largely intact as District 29 and that the Black Hawk area not be included with a Rapid City legislative district failed.
The committee approved a plan that grouped both Black Hawk and Ellsworth Air Force Base with District 33, which wraps around Rapid City on the north. Furthermore, a strip along the northern section of Meade County would be grouped with Perkins County and the rest of the expansive District 28 under the committee plan.
Lawmakers said Meade County must be split to accommodate the District 28A single-member House district.
The committee made minor modifications to the Rapid City area map, which includes Districts 30, 32, 33, 34 and 35. The region includes Pennington, Custer and Fall River counties. Rep. Mike Derby, R-Rapid City, said the changes were necessary after the decision to keep Corson County west of the river.
Committee members said during the special session that they want maps projected onto screens in both the House and Senate chambers. They believe members of the public could testify and lawmakers could offer amendments.
A committee charged with drawing up formal procedures for the special session will establish the rules before Oct. 23.
Questions or comments? Contact reporter Denise Ross at 394-8438 or [email protected].
A decade of explosive growth guarantees Sioux Falls one more legislative district, and area lawmakers and other leaders are poised to draw the lines that will divide the city into seven nearly equal pieces.
For the past 10 years, Sioux Falls has been divided into six districts, each with one senator and two representatives in the state Legislature. But the area has grown more in the past decade than any other part of South Dakota, so as other parts of the state worry about how to stretch their boundaries to gather enough people for an average-sized legislative district, Sioux Falls decision-makers must find ways to make enough districts to fit all the people.
"The east and west have grown a lot, and, of course, the south part of the city has, too," said Minnehaha County Auditor Sue Roust. "The central city is actually losing population, so there's going to be a lot of boundary shifting before the numbers fit."
The key number is 21,567. That's the perfect size for a legislative district, if the state's total population is divided among 35 legislative districts. Here's how the existing districts in Sioux Falls compare to that ideal number:
District 10, which includes part of Minnehaha County north of the city, curls around Sioux Falls to the east, takes in Brandon and continues south into the upper part of Lincoln County, now has 33,000 people. It's nearly a district and a half, Roust said, and it will look markedly different when map-makers are finished.
District 11, the west side of Sioux Falls, has about 26,000 people now. Part of that district will be carved away, perhaps becoming attached to a new district in the new part of Sioux Falls south of the Lincoln County line.
District 12 is generally between Interstate 29 and Grange Avenue and from the Lincoln County line north to Sixth Street. The district is just about the right size, Roust said.
District 13, the central city, has lost population. It's about 18,000 and must be expanded in some direction.
District 14, in southeastern Sioux Falls, has grown to about 25,000 people. Part of the district must be trimmed. One solution would be to shift the common boundary with District 13 until both are the right size.
District 15, sometimes called the Cathedral District, even though most of the district reaches north of the St. Joseph Cathedral. It's a strongly Democrat district, and it's the right size to remain untouched.
The Legislature's Redistricting Committee has tentatively drawn the outline of a seven-district area centered on Sioux Falls. That outline covers southern Minnehaha County, except for a tier of townships along the west border. It dips into northern Lincoln County, as the city itself has done in its growth spurt. While Harrisburg and Tea were part of the Sioux Falls area the last time lawmakers redistricted, the new proposal reaches as far south as Lennox for the seven-district plan.
It's up to local folks to draw the internal lines, the state redistricting committee said. Roust said she and legislative leaders will try to do that within a few days, then hold a public hearing to see what Sioux Falls thinks of its new look.
The final boundary lines will be drawn during a special session next month.
Political advantage isn't allowed to be the key reason for drawing districts, but it's never completely absent from the process. The existing six districts that include Sioux Falls, for example, include five that are somewhat heavier with registered Republicans and one, District 15, overwhelmingly Democrat.
That's good for the GOP because, while it all but guarantees the Democrats the Senate seat and two House seats in District 15 each election, it gives the Republicans a better-than-average chance of winning the other five Senate and 10 House seats.
Democrats might improve their chances of winning a bigger share of Sioux Falls if they pushed to have District 15's population spread among more districts, but they'd lose the sure thing by diluting the strong vote in the existing district.
The Republican Party has gained an edge in voter registration in Minnehaha County the past 10 years. Just before the 1990 general election, the county had about 220 more registered Republicans than Democrats. The pre-2000 totals showed nearly 5,100 more Republicans. In 1980, Democrats had a county-wide advantage of 2,500 registered voters.
Some analysts suggest that the new growth in the south part of Sioux Falls tends to be a Republican-leaning populace, while the growth on the northeast end of town leans Democratic. How much those tendencies figure into the final district boundaries remains to be seen.
One of the simplest ways to approach the redistricting of the city is to make a decision to change things as little as possible, Roust said. If that philosophy were followed, Districts 12 and 15 would be drawn first, just about as they exist today, then the rest of the map would be pushed in all directions to create five more districts of nearly equal population.
"Once you start the process, you keep working until the numbers fit," she said. "Then if someone makes a change anywhere, you almost have to start the whole thing over."
Before the state committee settled on a seven-district area for Sioux Falls, it considered and rejected an eight-district plan with all of Minnehaha County and northern Lincoln County, and a six-district proposal with only the Sioux Falls portion of Minnehaha and a piece of upper Lincoln.
However the Sioux Falls area finally is drawn, legislators should plan for the future, said Republican Rep. Dick Brown.
"One factor that needs to be recognized is the anticipated continuing increase in population," he said. "This means we should place these districts at the minimum population requirements, recognizing that each district will most likely increase beyond the minimums in a very short period of time, certainly within five years of our next 10-year readjustment."
Republican Rep. Clarence Kooistra of Garretson had asked the committee to consider keeping Minnehaha County whole, not using parts of it with neighboring counties to fashion districts, but instead finding ways to create districts entirely within the county boundaries. The tentative foundation created by the committee wouldn't do that, and Kooistra said if the panel sticks to that recommendation, the special session could be long and heated.
"I can see a fight on that, I really can," he said. "I think we're going to need all three of those days we have scheduled for the special session."
Kooistra would like to see the city of Sioux Falls combined with Brandon and Split Rock townships to make seven districts, and the rest of Minnehaha County formed into an eighth district. The current district lines divide rural Minnehaha County. For example, Kooistra lives in Garretson, north and east of Sioux Falls. But his district stretches west through rural Minnehaha and into McCook and part of Turner counties.
"This is a good opportunity to restore Minnehaha County," he said. "I think it could give us a stronger voice in the Legislature. I think there will be some changes made in the proposed map if it stays the way it's been discussed. I know there will be changes attempted. It's going to be a fight."