Elisa Sand tweets that the Aberdeen City Council voted last night to express its opposition to the gerrymandering practiced by the South Dakota Legislature and its support for an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission. The text from last night’s agenda packet is below:
There just happens to be a ballot measure circulating to end gerrymandering by creating and independent redistricting commission. Mark Remily, the city councilor who brought the resolution to the floor, just happens to be the campaign coordinator for that ballot measure. The resolution is not a direct endorsement of the ballot measure itself, so technically the resolution does not violate SDCL 12-27-20, which says we can’t spend public funds “for the petitioning of a ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question.”
Aberdeen is one of only three cities in South Dakota exceeds the legally prescribed population of a legislative district. Under Article 3 Section 5 of the state constitution, the Legislature must draw our Legislative districts to have practically equal populations. South Dakota’s official 2010 population of 814,180 divided by 35 districts gives us 23,262 people per district. Aberdeen’s official population was 26,091. The Legislature thus had to shave not quite 3,000 people out of Aberdeen and place them in a different district with surrounding rural areas. In 2011, the Legislature met that requirement with this gerrymander:
Look at the southwest corner of Aberdeen. Instead of drawing a straight line down 5th Street, the Legislature stretched District 2 east toward Main Street north of 12th Avenue, then stretched District 3 west to 9th Street right below that. They stretched northeast to ensure that the houses around the Moccasin Creek Country Club make it into District 3. And instead of trying to keep more of the Aberdeen city limits within the same district, the Legislature included 42 rural sections to the east of town—Bath Township plus six bonus sections—necessarily increasing the number of voters in Aberdeen proper who had to be split off into District 2, which looks like a stealth bomber stretching south and east below Watertown:
Given current population figures, Aberdeen can’t maintain its territorial integrity within a single legislative district. But the above maps indicate that the Legislature unnecessarily fiddled with the map to target certain neighborhoods for certain districts and to increase the number of Aberdeen voters who would be thrown into far-flung District 2. The Legislature drew a map that gives more Aberdeen voters less opportunity to be represented by their neighbors.
Any city has a natural interest in ensuring that its residents can win fair representation in the Legislature. Whatever map lines would optimize our representation, the city has taken the position that an independent, nonpartisan commission would draw those lines more fairly than our current self-interested legislators.
Update 08:28 CDT: A source who attended the meeting says the two councilors who voted against the resolution were Dave Bunsness and Alan Johnson. Both men represent the southwest district of the city, which is the district divided by the 2011 gerrymander:
It appears that the gerrymander lines up with the boundaries of Precinct 8. Councilors Bunsness and Johnson both appear to live in Precinct 9.