SD State Lawmakers hear redistricting feedback on reservation

At a joint committee hearing at the Rosebud Casino, state lawmakers heard from citizens about how they would like to see redistricting handled, particularly with District 26 and 27.
SD State Lawmakers heard feedback from constituents on the Rosebud Reservation about how they...
SD State Lawmakers heard feedback from constituents on the Rosebud Reservation about how they would like to see redistricting handled.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 7:57 AM CDT
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MISSION, S.D. - Members of the South Dakota State Legislature’s redistricting committee received public feedback on the Rosebud Native American Reservation Monday.

The listening session is part of a statewide tour to get feedback from constituents across the state about their thoughts on the process, and some proposed maps that have been discussed.

State lawmakers started the tour Monday morning in Rapid City.

Amongst the topics discussed were the unique challenges Native Americans face when it comes to redistricting. Primary among them are the difficulties associated with getting accurate census results.

State Senator Troy Heinert (D-Mission) and other advocates propose cross checking South Dakota’s census data against other population data available at both the state and federal level.

“Here in Todd County, it says we have 9,000 people here, that is about half of the people who actually live here,” Heinert said. “We know that through other data sets, people using the hospitals, social service programs, the amount kids we have in school... It is going to come down to how much courage this committee has to accept that and account for it, or we are going to ignore that and possibly end up in a lawsuit.”

Even with challenges like this in mind, those who did show up Monday night advocated strongly that the best representation that they could get would come through largely keeping the same District 26 and District 27 in place, two districts with heavy concentrations of Native American populations.

State lawmakers on the redistricting committee have considered proposals that would bring communities currently outside of 26 and 27 into them, which advocates say would dilute the Native American vote there.

Additionally, legislators and citizens alike have raised the idea of a northern Rapid City district, which they believe would also allow for more Native American representation.

Current South Dakota legislative district map. Many districts will be redrawn to account for...
Current South Dakota legislative district map. Many districts will be redrawn to account for population changes in the 2020 census.(South Dakota Sec. of State)

(Pictured: The current South Dakota state legislative districts map)

“I think this is one of the easier districts to draw up,” said State Rep. Shawn Bourdeaux (D-Mission), testifying before the committee. “I mean I don’t think I would be wanting to split up the folks in Sioux Falls where you have 20,000 upset no matter where you cut the street, but I think here you should just consider keeping all the counties as one,” Bourdeaux said of District 26, his district.

State lawmakers will have to proceed with relative caution, as there is significant legal casework protecting minorities, specifically Native Americans, and their voting rights through the redistricting process.

“I am hoping we see some changes to Rapid City, and I am hoping we don’t see any changes in 26 and 27,” said OJ Semans, Co-Director of Four Directions.

The public listening tour will continue Tuesday in Mobridge and Aberdeen, before wrapping up Wednesday in Watertown and Sioux Falls. All hearings are available to listen to online, but the ability to testify is only available to those who attend in person.

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