Speaking of petitions, you can come sign the petition to create an Independent Redistricting Commission and end gerrymandering at lunch Friday at the Democratic Forum in Sioux Falls.
South Dakota Farmers Union president Doug Sombke will speak to the Democratic Forum at the Sioux Falls VFW, 3601 South Minnesota, about why his organization wants to amend South Dakota’s constitution to give the important duty of drawing legislative districts to an independent commission rather than the Legislature. Sombke’s speech will likely revolve around these five points, laid out on Farmers Union’s website:
1. Empowers Voters, Strengthens Rights: Currently voter participation is incredibly low, only 54% at the last gubernatorial election! Voters have become disenchanted with the world of politics and need a new spark. This redistricting commission empowers voters by giving them the right to choose their legislators, rather than be chosen.
2. Amendment Provides Constitutional Clarity: The SD Constitution is very ambiguous when it comes to the redistricting process. It isn’t much clearer in SD statute either. One paragraph in the SD Constitution is all that defines a redistricting process that shapes the legislative landscape in South Dakota for a decade.
3. Redistricting Commission Supported by US Supreme Court: In the recent Supreme Court decision in Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Supreme Court upheld the existence of independent redistricting commissions. In the majority decision the court stated “It would thus be perverse to interpret ‘Legislature’ in the Elections Clause to exclude lawmaking by the people, particularly when such lawmaking is intended to advance the prospect that Members of Congress will in fact be ‘chosen… by the People of the several States.”
4. Redistricting Commission Prevents Gerrymandering: Gerrymandering is the process of drawing legislative districts for the purpose of political or other personal gain. This constitutional amendment prevents such actions by imposing strict guidelines for the redistricting process and placing redistricting authority in the hands of the voters, not the legislators.
5. Nonpartisan Amendment: This amendment promotes bipartisanship as the commission includes members from both of the two major parties in South Dakota, currently the Republican and Democratic Party, and includes voters independent of those two parties for a makeup of 3 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and 3 independent of the parties [South Dakota Farmers Union webpage, downloaded 2015.07.29].
The big argument, the only argument we need here is #4. Gerrymandering allows political parties and individuals to game elections for their own gain. Election laws should be blind to partisan interests. The only people who should benefit from election laws, including redistricting laws, are all of the people. An Independent Redistricting Commission benefits no specific person or party; it does benefit all voters who want fair, impartial decisions in drawing legislative boundaries and setting the stage for elections.
Bring your registered-voter friends to the Sioux Falls VFW Friday noon, and sign that redistricting petition!