PIERRE – The Legislature’s special committee on redistricting decided on a work plan Wednesday that gives priority to the Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Indian reservation areas of South Dakota in drawing a new map of the state’s 35 legislative districts.
Also at the July 28 meeting, several subcommittees will be appointed to travel to reservations and return with recommendations for the committee’s third full meeting in late August or September.
The committee is starting with Sioux Falls and Rapid City because of the growth in and around those communities. The reservations will receive special attention because the U.S. Department of Justice must scrutinize South Dakota’s compliance with federal voting-rights laws.
Once there are firm proposals for the urban and reservation districts, the committee will piece together the rest of the jigsaw for consideration by the full Legislature at its Oct. 24 special session. The lines lawmakers draw for the districts will be used starting in 2012 for the next 10 years of elections.
Sioux Falls and the neighboring area would expand from seven to nine districts, while Rapid City and its immediate area would have four, under the general directions given by the committee Wednesday for the subcommittees.
“When they propose the plan to us we’ll take a final vote,” Rep. Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City, said. Rausch, who as the House speaker is that chamber’s top officer, is one of the full committee’s chairmen.
The Legislature’s state-tribal relations committee members and state secretary of Indian affairs J.R. LaPlante should be invited to the reservation meetings, Senate Republican leader Russ Olson of Wentworth said. He is the other committee chairman.
The reservation meetings shouldn’t take more than a few hours apiece because people will have previously thought about what they think should be done, Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, said.
Bradford, one of the few tribal people in the 105-member Legislature, opined that the challenge facing the redistricting committee regarding Native American districts won’t be as much about boundary lines as questions of legality under federal laws.