Process is moving slowly on new legislative districtsPIERRE — The chairman agreed Thursday to formally set a work schedule for the Legislature’s special committee that is drawing new boundaries of South Dakota’s 35 legislative districts that will be used for the 2012 through 2020 elections.
By: Bob Mercer, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — The chairman agreed Thursday to formally set a work schedule for the Legislature’s special committee that is drawing new boundaries of South Dakota’s 35 legislative districts that will be used for the 2012 through 2020 elections.
The panel’s 15 members face an Oct. 24 deadline when the full Legislature will meet in special session to approve the new boundaries. So far the process, led by Rep. Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City, has been loosely organized.
Rausch, who is the House speaker, accepted the suggestions Wednesday from House Republican leader David Lust, of Rapid City, and from Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, a senior lawmaker, that Rausch work backward from the special session and set specific dates for meetings and establish deadlines for delivering various maps.
Lust asked that Rausch have that schedule done within the next week. Also calling for a formal schedule was Sen. Joni Cutler, R-Sioux Falls, another senior legislator.
The committee gathered Thursday for the second time. It had last met on June 8. Rausch said there will be a third full meeting, lasting one or two days, in either late September or early October. He said there also will be a formal hearing on Oct. 24 as part of the special session.
Three main things were accomplished Thursday:
The committee reached consensus on 13 different proposals that will be considered for meeting federal voting-rights requirements for districts with concentrations of American Indian populations;
Rausch named the chairs and vice chairs for three subcommittees of five legislators apiece who will travel to three clusters of Indian reservation areas to explain the proposals and take testimony; and
The full panel accepted reports from two subcommittees on the exterior boundaries for the Sioux Falls and Rapid City “conurbation” areas. The interior boundaries for the legislative districts within those areas will be drawn next, with at least one public meeting in each city by its subcommittee.
After the U.S. census each decade the Legislature redraws its districts. This time, the statewide map for all 35 districts won’t be assembled until there is a plan in place for the Indian-voter districts that lawmakers believe will be acceptable to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Legislature’s redistricting plan from 10 years ago was rejected and redrawn in such a dispute. That was despite legislators having submitted their proposal to federal lawyers for review prior to the Legislature’s formal adoption.
“Pre-clearance is a misnomer of the worst order, because the Department of Justice won’t pre-clear anything,” Reuben Bezpaletz, a lawyer for the Legislative Research Council and a redistricting expert, told the committee Thursday. “You send it to them immediately afterward and ask: How do you like what we did?”
The LRC is posting various maps on its website (legis.state.sd.us) under the interim committee documents section.