David Lias

David Lias

It’s tough to know what’s going on in Pierre.

And sometimes, it’s even more difficult to understand the thought processes that go on under the dome in the state Capitol building.

A quick glance at the map on the front page of today’s edition of the Plain Talk gives you a hint of what I’m talking about.

The new 2020 Census figures means that there’s fresh information about the population of South Dakota’s communities and counties.

There’s also up-to-date information about the population of our legislative districts as they exist today and guess what? Many of them, in fact, maybe most of them (I haven’t researched that, to be honest) don’t contain the 25,333 living souls necessary to divide South Dakota’s current population of 886,667 residents evenly among the state’s 35 legislative districts.

That means the South Dakota Legislature will convene early next month to try to come up with a plan to redraw our state’s legislative district boundaries.

Things have not gone smoothly. Various maps have been produced, apparently, all identified by the name of a bird. The map that proposed splitting Vermillion among three legislative districts was known as “Grouse,” but another bird comes to mind once you view it. Cuckoo. Or maybe Dodo.

The good news is that the Grouse map is now off the table. It’s been replaced by Grouse 2.0.

The bad news is that state lawmakers are apparently at a deadlock, with the Argus Leader reporting Wednesday that “the House and Senate Redistricting Interim Committees this week wrapped up the months-long process of figuring out where to draw new district lines to reflect population changes from the previous decade. But despite more than a dozen meetings, thousands of miles worth of community stops and some last-minute changes, consensus between the two panels could not be reached.

Instead, each passed independent recommendations with major differences in places like northern Minnehaha County, rural Brown County and much of southeast South Dakota.”

It’s a duel between the Senate committee's map, officially known as Blackbird 2.0, which the Argus states is characterized by supporters as having "contiguous and compact" legislative districts that respect communities of interest.

Meanwhile, House members on the committee prefer what's called Grouse 2.0 map, which they say does a better job balancing the interests of urban and rural voters while more closely following city and county lines.

We’re not about to suggest that Blackbird is better than Grouse or vice versa. Redistricting is a complicated issue and admittedly, it’s difficult to find the time to fully understand what the differences between the two concepts are, or what’s driving them.

The special legislative session where this will all be hashed out, however, is around the corner and it wouldn’t hurt for us to do some homework. Our legislative district, in particular, poses a unique challenge. We can’t expand to the south. We can only go east, west or north. How do we best do that while serving citizens who are familiar our little chunk of the state and know best what it’s issues and challenges are?

How do we draw the boundaries of a new district – which means taking people away from current bordering districts – without causing too much chaos in those bordering areas?

We encourage all residents of District 17 to keep those issues and tons of others that brighter minds may formulate in mind. We encourage you to keep up to date with the latest happenings in Pierre regarding redistricting.

We’ve learned why it’s vital to do so. Someone actually thought splitting Vermillion among three districts was a good idea. We need to make sure that such ideas don’t surface again.

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