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Redistricting in South Dakota

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Note: Redistricting takes place every ten years after completion of the United States Census. The information here pertains to the 2010 redistricting process.

Redistricting in South Dakota
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General information
Partisan control:
December 1, 2011
Total seats
State Senate:
State House:
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures

This page is about redistricting in South Dakota. The state did not grow enough between 2000 and 2010 to gain a Congressional seat, meaning it would be an at-large seat in the U.S. House at least through 2021. However, internal migration to the cities was a major part of redrawing seats in the legislature. Most areas lost population as a few urban centers grew.[1]

A special session was conducted on October 24, 2011 to approve new state legislative maps.[2]

Figure 1: This map shows the South Dakota at-large Congressional District after the 2000 census.


A Special Redistricting Committee was appointed to conduct open hearings across the state, following which the committee would deliver its recommendations to the legislature, heavily controlled by the GOP for 2011.

Following that, Senate President Pro Tem Bob Gray and House Speaker Val Rausch announced they were meeting to select the members of a redistricting committee who would actually draw maps.[3]

A proposal from Representative Peggy Anne Gibson to continue in that direction and have an appointed committee handle the actual preparation of maps was rejected by the Senate, who killed the bill in committee. While Gibson and other members of the minority Democratic party supported a process that decreased the power of the majority party to influence boundaries, GOP lawmakers explained their opposition to such a bill by appealing to South Dakota's Constitution, which called for the legislature to draw its own boundaries.[4]

The entire legislature convened for a special session expected to last only one or two days, to approve the maps around October 21, 2011.[5][6]


Redistricting panels

Named in mid-March, two panels handled drawing maps for both chambers.[7] Representative Rausch and Senator Olsen were selected as chairs of the respective committees by the other members.[8] To that end, the members began meeting in the second week of June.[9]

For the House:

For the Senate:

Throughout the summer, public meetings were held in Rapid City and Sioux Falls, and on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations, the two areas specifically named in the VRA.[10] Later, additional meetings were added to give the panel time to listen to input on all seven of South Dakota's reservations.[11][12] The goal for the special session to pass maps was set for October 24, 2011.[13]

The panel set a full meeting for July 28, 2011, with two meetings of smaller groups earlier in the summer. The sub-groups were given the task of preparing a set of recommendations for the full meeting.[14]

Majority leader's death

In July 2011, Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem (R) died in a car accident in Alaska while on vacation. As Majority Leader, his role in the redistricting process was expected to be significant.[15]

Census results

An entire state represented by one Congressman both before and after the 2010 Census, South Dakota's redistricting brawl immediately fell to sorting out voting districts at the state level. The coming partisan clashes were foreshadowed when Democratic Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin lost her re-election bid to Republican Kristi Noem.[16]

Under the new plan, state Senate districts would have 23,262 residents, with a tolerated deviation of +/- 5%. Traditionally, each Senate seat encapsulated two House seats, with exceptions made on Indian reservations.

Congressional map

South Dakota has only one U.S. House seat, and therefore does not require any map changes. The entire state is one district.

Legislative maps

South Dakota had greater focus on her state seats as a result of possessing a single House seat. Accordingly, 2011 saw legislators focus numerous bills on changes to the process of apportioning and districting legislative representation.

HB 1090 proposed that, "the interim committee shall draw and report no redistricting plan that does not incorporate statewide single-member house districts" In plain language, that would reverse a series of 1964 court rulings that mandated all members of the same chamber represent the same numbers of citizens.[17]

In practice, each legislative District has one Senator and two Representatives, and that has translated into enormous, even unwieldly, districts for some. HB 1090 was brought to the floor with largely Democratic sponsorship; a similar Republican bill, HB 1075, to require two Representatives in a District that covered five or more counties was tabled early on.

Two more Democratic bills considered issues with redistricting; HB 1101 introduced the idea of a bipartisan, non-legislative commission and set out a structure for naming members to ensure the entire state had a seat at the table and HB 1121 strengthened language requiring continuous and contiguous districts.[18]

A theme spanning the entire redistricting process and focusing the goals of all legislators who filed bills was the decades long trend of migration into South Dakota's cities. 2011 was set to give urban area greater voice and had rural residents concerned early on.[19]

Summer 2011

In June 2011, legislators began work on redistricting, notably to prepare for possible lawsuits surrounding the concentration of Native Americans in districts. After the 2001 redistricting, three lawsuits were filed against the state, which ultimately resulted in a court-order to redraw some districts. Because the lawsuits were expensive -- costing more than $800,000 -- this time around, legislators were planning early to try and avoid ending up in court. Public meetings were held on seven reservations late in the summer.[20]

Special session

A special session was held October 24, 2011 for the legislators to debate the new maps.[15][21]

Committee adopts changes to Indian districts

On Tuesday, September 12, 2011, South Dakota's Legislative Redistricting Committee adopted changes to the state's American Indian legislative districts. Under the new boundaries, the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation would be included with the Lower Brule and Crow Creek reservations in a single legislative district. Minor changes were made to other districts containing reservations. The changes received bi-partisan support.[22]

As final meetings approach, committee accepts public submissions

The committee accepted map submissions from the public in advance of final plan approval. Public proposals were submitted by September 21, 2011. The committee met September 27 and 28 to adopt its final plan recommendations for the South Dakota State Legislature.[23]

Committee adopts plan

The special committee on redistricting approved new state legislative maps on September 27, 2011, setting the stage for a special session on October 24. The panel approved the new districts on a party-line vote of 10-3.

The final meeting contained tension as legislators were accused of partisan politics and drawing districts to favor incumbents. State representative Susan Wismer (D) said Republicans have gerrymandered districts for the past 30 years which has led to big GOP advantages in each chamber. Republicans had overwhelming majorities in the legislature -- 30-5 in the Senate and 50-19-1 in the House.[24]

According to Wismer, Democrats made up about 45 percent of registered voters, but she said gerrymandering is the reason why the legislature is far from having 45 percent of seats occupied by Democrats.

There are 35 districts, and each district elected one senator and two representatives. The plan as passed would place Wismer and four other Democratic incumbents in one district.[25]

Final map

Final redistricting map from the 2010 census population changes. This map will be used from 2012-2020.

On October 24, 2011, the final redistricting map was approved by the legislature. The final vote was 31-4 in the South Dakota State Senate and 50-18 in the South Dakota House of Representatives. Five incumbent Democratic legislators were placed into one district that elects three legislators. Sen. Jason Frerichs, Rep. David Sigdestad, Rep. Dennis Feickert, Rep. Susan Wismer and Rep. Paul Dennert all reside in District 1.[26]

The map was signed by South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) on October 25, 2011.[27]

Final redistricting map that was used in elections from 2000-2010

Citizen activism

The South Dakota Citizens Redistricting Commission -- a bipartisan group formed to watch redistricting -- was hosting a contest for citizens to submit their own versions of a new state legislative map. The winner would receive $250 and have the opportunity to present their plan to state legislators.

The group was encouraging citizens to use "Dave's Redistricting" tool to produce the product. The deadline for maps to be submitted was August 8, 2011.[28]

Public input

The legislative subcommittee on redistricting traveled to Indian reservations in August 2011 to display proposed maps and gather public comment.[29]


2001 redistricting

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[30]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts N/A
State House Districts 9.69%
State Senate Districts 9.69%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Constitutional explanation

The South Dakota Constitution provides authority to the Legislature for redistricting in Section 5 of Article III.

Ballot measures

The following measures have appeared on the South Dakota ballot pertaining to redistricting.


In January 2012, State House members rejected a proposal to alter the redistricting process for the 2020 Census. A measure was proposed by Peggy Gibson (D) to create a seven-member commission made up of members of both parties. But a party-line vote in committee defeated the measure.[31]

See also

External links


  1. Argus Leader, "U.S. Census: Decade of growth centered on cities," February 17, 2011
  2. The Republic, "Special session to redraw boundaries of SD legislative districts likely will focus on Aberdeen," October 21, 2011
  3., "SD redistricting committee to be appointed," March 11, 2011 (dead link)
  4. Plains Daily, "Appointed redistricting commission is rejected," January 31, 2011
  5. Black Hills Fox, "SD redistricting committee to be appointed," March 11, 2011
  6. KTIV "South Dakota will soon get new district maps," May 21, 2011
  7. Pure Pierre, "Legislature picks redistricting panel," March 17, 2011
  8. Native American Times, "SD redistricting panel plans hearings for summer," April 1, 2011
  9. WNAX, "South Dakota Legislators To Meet On Redistricting Next Week," June 1, 2011 (dead link)
  10. Rapid City Journal, "SD redistricting panel plans hearings for summer," March 28, 2011
  11. Argus Leader, "Redistricting committee to take look at Native American areas," June 9, 2011
  12. Greenfield Reporter, "SD Legislative Redistricting Committee begins its summer work; talks about not getting sued," June 9, 2011
  13. Washington Examiner, "Redistricting panel holds first meeting," March 28, 2011
  14. Daily Republic, "Legislators set priorities early as they draw new district lines," June 9, 2011 (dead link)
  15. 15.0 15.1 The Dickinson Press, "ND GOP Senate leader's death leaves questions," July 20, 2011 (dead link)
  16. The Hill, "Outgoing Dem rails against redistricting," December 30, 2010
  17. Argus Leader, "Lining up for fight on redistricting," January 28, 2011
  18. Madville Times, "Four Bills Tackle Legislative Redistricting," January 25, 2011
  19. Argus Leader, "Ellis: S.D. cities soon might have greater sway in Legislature," September 12, 2010
  20. Argus Leader, "Redistricting committee to take look at Native American areas," June 9, 2011
  21. Mitchell Republic, "SD legislators set to make key decisions about Indian voting districts," September 9, 2011
  22. Houston Chronicle, "SD panel passes changes to legislative districts," September 13, 2011
  23. American News, "Redistricting panel accepting maps through Sept. 21, September 14, 2011
  24. Argus Leader, "Panel approves redistricting map," September 28, 2011
  25. Houston Chronicle, "Panel approves changes to SD legislative districts," September 27, 2011
  26. Sioux City Journal, "SD lawmakers approve new 35 voting districts," October 24, 2011 (dead link)
  27. Rapid City Journal, "Governor signs SD redistricting measures," October 25, 2011 (dead link)
  28. Rapid City Journal, "Bipartisan group offers contest to draw new legislative districts," June 18, 2011
  29. Aberdeen News, "Legislators travel to reservations as part of 2012 redistricting process," August 10, 2011 (dead link)
  30. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”," accessed February 1, 2011
  31. KCAUTV "House panel rejects change in redistricting method," January 30, 2012 (dead link)