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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at www.sdpb.org/statehouse

Democratic Redistricting Plan Killed By Republicans

By Victoria Wicks
Representative Peggy Gibson tried and failed to hand control of redistricting to a citizen committee rather than to elected officials. Gibson sponsored a House Joint Resolution to amend the state’s constitution. Gibson told the House State Affairs Committee Monday that Republican and Democratic leadership should appoint four people who would then choose three more to serve on the committee. Opponents say the system works the way it is.
“The United States is the only country in the world that allows its politicians to choose their own voters,” Gibson says. She and other Democrats say skewed redistricting has disenfranchised not only their party, but also rural populations.
“It is increasingly apparent that the system can never function responsibly until the process is de-politicized and more attention is paid to the desires of local communities,” she says.
Mike Traxinger lobbies for the South Dakota Farmers Union. He says redistricting is a rural issue, and he says his organization supports Gibson’s plan, modeled after Montana’s method of drawing its districts’ lines. “We definitely encourage the fact that no current legislator would be able to draw their own lines to make themselves safe when it comes to the election process,” Traxinger says.
Representative David Novstrup, a Republican from Aberdeen, sits on the state affairs committee. He makes the motion to kill the bill: “The citizens being the ones that decide the districts somewhat make me nervous. Not that I don’t trust them, but it just somewhat makes me nervous.”
“It just doesn’t seem right that unelected people would be involved in this particular type of a process,” says Jim Bolin, a Republican representative who served on the panel that drew up South Dakota’s latest districts. “I am totally convinced that the State of South Dakota will not be successfully sued during this 10-year process, as we were in the process that started in… that was set up in 2001.”
The state affairs committee voted along party lines, by a vote of eight to four, to kill the bill.