Art Rusch

Our South Dakota Constitution requires that the legislature redraw the boundaries of all of the legislative districts every ten years which is this year. If the legislature does not do that by Dec. 1, then the South Dakota Supreme Court is required to draw the districts.

Redistricting is a difficult process which is why there are so many objections. To explain: we have 35 legislative districts in South Dakota. According to the 2020 census, our state population is 886,667. If that population is divided by the 35 districts, then each district should have a population of 25,333. It is not possible to get exactly that number in each district so the districts are allowed to have a variation of up to 5% which means that the population of each district must fall between 24,066 and 26,600.

Obviously, Minnehaha County with a population of 197,214 has to be split into several different districts. However, our present districts in southeast South Dakota don’t have enough population to make up a legislative district. District 17 (presently Clay and Turner Counties) has 23,640 people so it needs between 426 and 2,960 more people to make up a district while District 18 ( which presently includes only Yankton County) has a population of 23,310 people so it needs 756 to 3,290 more people to make up a district. None of the counties in southeast South Dakota fall within the required population range to make up a district.

These counties are:

Yankton County with 23,310 people needs at least 756 but not more than 3290 more people;

Union County with a population of 16,811 needs at least 7,255 more people but no more than 9,789;

Clay County with 14,967 people needs between 9,099 and 11,633 more people for a district;

Turner County with a population of 8,673 needs between 15,393 and 17,927 to make up a district.

Consequently there has to be some amount of combining of these counties to make up districts with the required population.

I appreciate all of the comments that I have received concerning the various legislative redistricting maps and how they will impact us here in southeast South Dakota. I submitted written objections to the original plans as did Rep. Davis and Rep. Vasgaard appeared personally before the redistricting committee and testified against them.

On Oct, 25, the Senate Redistricting Committee and the House Redistricting Committee met but were unable to come up with one plan. The House plan has been nicknamed Grouse 2.0. Under that plan, in District 17, Clay and Turner counties stay together but the Freeman area of Hutchinson County is added into the district. In District 18, most of the middle part of Hutchison County is added into Yankton County. District 16 would consist of all of Union County and most of Lincoln County south of Sioux Falls.

The Senate plan was nicknamed Blackbird 2.0. Under that plan, Clay County (District 17) would lose the Irene/Wakonda area but gain part of southern Union County. Yankton (District 18) would remain one district except that they would gain the Irene/Wakonda area from Clay County. Turner County would lose the southeast corner which goes in with Hutchison County and the rest of the county goes into a district with Lincoln County and the rest of Union County.

The Legislature’s special session to decide on the redistricting plan will take place on Nov. 8. I am sure that there will be lots of negotiation going on between now and then.

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