Pierre and Fort Pierre’s legislative district could soon gain a second West River county if the Senate Legislative Redistricting Committee’s “Blackbird” map is ultimately approved, though committee chair state Sen. Mary Duvall, R-Pierre, said edits are still to come.

“From the Senate perspective... the initial Blackbird was approved by the Senate committee on a 5-1 vote to put out for public discussion,” Duvall told the Capital Journal on Tuesday. “We went on our listening tour last week across the state. Based on that, we are making additional revisions or tweaks to that basic map, and we will be finalizing that before we submit it to the full Senate for consideration. But the Blackbird is our starting point.”

The Blackbird map would transfer Haakon County into District 24, which centers on Pierre, to give the district a total of five counties alongside Hughes, Hyde, Stanley and Sully. Haakon County tallied 1,872 residents in the 2020 Census, 65 fewer than in 2010.

Duvall said there is likely still more to be done to District 24, however. The southern reaches of Hughes and Hyde counties containing the northern part of the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, she said, may be pulled into District 26 to give it more residents.

Hughes County gained 743 residents between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a net increase in residency of just over four percent.

At present, District 26 is split into 26A — Mellette and Todd counties, represented by state Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission — and 26B — Brule, Buffalo, Jones and Lyman counties, represented by state Rep. Rebecca Reimer, R-Chamberlain — with state Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, representing the sum of 26A and 26B’s six counties in the state Senate.

Under the original Blackbird map, District 26 would contain the aforementioned six counties and also absorb a portion of western Tripp County. Duvall said the current District 26 has too small a population to remain intact.

“So the thought was, to uphold our minority-majority district requirements, to pull some of that Stephan area and then the pocket in eastern Hughes County into District 26,” Duvall said. “That would make District 24 still within the population requirement as long as we brought in Haakon.”

Of the seven counties comprising parts of Blackbird’s original District 26, only Buffalo did not lose residents between 2010 and 2020, having gained 36 people. Meanwhile, Jones County’s net loss of 89 residents since 2010 represented a nearly 9 percent decrease in population and put it under 1,000 total residents in 2020.

Public comment

“On our listening tours, one of the main themes that came through a lot is that people really don’t want their current district to change,” Duvall said. “Unfortunately, because of the way that South Dakota’s population has changed and it’s become more concentrated in the southeast part of the state, our districts are going to have to change. The only one that gets to stay the same is District 31, Lawrence County. But people really don’t want to have to change.”

Duvall said other comments concerned keeping counties whole and keeping urban districts compact so that they didn’t spill over into rural areas.

“Agriculture is important in South Dakota, and there is a desire to make sure that the rural districts stay as rural as possible,” Duvall said.

In a statement to the Capital Journal, South Dakota Republican Party Chair Dan Lederman noted that his party itself is “not a participant in the process, nor are we being consulted, as it should be.”

“Like any other state resident, we’re encouraging our legislators to come together to draw district lines that provide fair and equitable representation in a process that’s transparent for all South Dakotans,” Lederman said. “As both the House and the Senate have been travelling around the state and gaining local input as they work out their respective plans, it’s a testament to the fact that redistricting as currently provided for in the State Constitution is a system that works just fine as is, and the state does not need special interest groups monkeying around with the redistricting system, creating star-chambers who are responsible to none.”

South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director Berk Ehrmantraut told the Capital Journal that minority representation, particularly among Native Americans, is the party’s biggest point of concern.

“I think Democrats are open to working with Republicans on the Blackbird map where we can,” Ehrmantraut said. “...We’ve seen significant issues with Census undercount in places like District 26 and District 27. I think there’s room for the Legislature to accommodate for that and provide some additional flexibility on the 5 percent up, 5 percent down rule. We know that representing minority voices is also an important consideration for drawing these maps.”

Blackbird’s original District 27 consists of eastern Pennington and eastern Fall River counties in addition to all of Bennett, Jackson and Oglala Lakota counties.

The current District 27 consists of all of Bennett, Haakon, Jackson and Oglala Lakota counties and far eastern Pennington County. It is represented by state Reps. Peri Pourier, D-Pine Ridge, and Liz May, R-Kyle, in the state House and state Sen. Red Dawn Foster, D-Pine Ridge, in the state Senate.

“At the end of the day, both the House and the Senate have to come together and agree on one map to present in bill form for the Governor to either sign or veto,” Duvall said.

The Senate Legislative Redistricting Committee has another meeting scheduled for Monday morning, though Duvall said she would be reaching out to members to see if the meeting needs to be pushed back to allow for preparation.

Michael Woodel | 605-224-7301 ext. 131

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