Thu, 09 Dec 2021

RAPID CITY, S.D. -- Proposed updates to South Dakota's legislative maps are getting a dose of public scrutiny, with hearings being held across the state this week.

Redistricting, which is done each decade after a formal census count, is meant to ensure communities have equal representation, but some voter advocates feel the state's current process allows for gerrymandering. The concerns were highlighted during an initial hearing near Rapid City.

Rep. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, whose daughter is a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, said he was concerned about proposed boundaries from senators, and how they might impact tribal communities.

"Please reject the Senate map, which some say would silence the voice of these American Indians, and embrace the House map, which is more equitable and inclusive," Jensen urged.

The redistricting committees in both chambers are led by Republicans because of their majorities in the Legislature. Senate members leveled similar gerrymandering accusations against the House panel over its map, saying it prioritized re-election plans over people. Additional public hearings will be over the next two days, wrapping up tomorrow in Sioux Falls.

Dan Mulally, a Rapid Valley resident, testified he was concerned about communities of interest in his area not getting enough attention in the process.

"It almost sounds to me like Moses came down to the mountain with this and said, 'Here it is,'" Mulally remarked.

The Legislature is expected to consider finalized maps when it meets early next month. The governor also needs to sign off on any proposal. If there is no agreement, the issue could wind up before the courts.

Source: Greater Dakota News Service

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