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Bolin: No, Ossifer, There Is No Gerrymandering Here

South Dakota Republicans really want to beat Amendment T, because it would get rid of gerrymandering. South Dakota Republicans, like any majority party, really like gerrymandering, even though it’s almost impossible to offer any honest, principled defense of rigging the election map to improve one’s own chances of winning elections.

So South Dakota Republicans defend gerrymandering by denying that gerrymandering exists in South Dakota:

I guess Rep. Jim Stalzer’s insincere claims at the September 15 ballot question forum in Sioux Falls that his party didn’t gerrymander in 2011 weren’t just the product of last-minute-replacement prep. They are the Trumpist party line: assert falsehood repeatedly until people forget it’s falsehood.

Rep. Jim Bolin argues that since South Dakota’s legislative districts aren’t as stretched and contorted as districts in Illinois and North Carolina, South Dakota doesn’t have gerrymandering. That’s like Drunk Uncle saying, “I’m not an alcoholic; I’m only drinking beer!” That’s like a bookie saying to the cops, “Hey! I don’t have slot machines or roulette wheels! I’m just taking bets on horses. There’s no gambling here!” That’s like ISIS saying, “We don’t have gas chambers, so we’re not committing genocide!”

Gerrymandering is not defined by a specific mathematical ratio of border length to area. “Distorted” and “complicated” shapes signify gerrymandering, but they do not define gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is, most simply, the drawing of political boundaries to give one’s party a numeric advantage over an opposing party. Rep. Bolin and his Republican friends can say that the boundaries they have drawn manage to conform to certain geographical and Department of Justice criteria, but that statement does negate the fact that within those criteria, the Republicans drew lines that favor their party.

I invite Rep. Bolin, Rep. Stalzer, and other scrambling Republicans to look at the boundaries of Districts 1, 2, 3, 10, 14, 15, 19, 25, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, and 35 and explain to me how those squiggly, crinkly dividing lines arise from purely geographical and legal criteria without any consideration of where Republican and Democratic voters and candidates live. I also invite them to explain why they so adamantly oppose writing clear criteria into the state constitution to prevent a one-party regime drunk on its own power from rigging the map to serve their selfish political interests.


  1. Rorschach 2016-09-25 09:48

    Let’s see. Redistricting by politicians/for politicians. Or redistricting by an independent commission without reference to voter registration, party interests, or names of voters. Nuff said.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-25 10:01

    Good summary, Ror. The issue is pretty straightforward: gerrymandering is bad. Bolin/SDGOP are conceding that gerrymandering is bad. They are retreating to the argument that they don’t do bad stuff. Their only hope is that voters will believe the GOP assertion that politicians don’t abuse the system for their own gain. Will that position hold water among the 2016 electorate?

  3. Stace Nelson 2016-09-25 10:15

    Gerrymandering occurred. They bragged and laughed about in caucus at the time. I was so offended that they lied to the public and then laughed with glee about it in caucus, I stood up and chewed them out. Realize, not only did they gerrymander against Democrats, they did it to conservatives like Lora Hubble, myself, and others.

    I remember Val Rausch laughing in caucus about claiming this effort to cut Frank Kloucek out of the majority of his district (see Bon Homme County on the map below), was happenschance to the press.


  4. grudznick 2016-09-25 10:20

    I have heard Val Rausch was a giant among the legislatures and one of the most effective in recent times. I can believe if he set his mind to something he could work well with others to get it done, so Mr. Nelson’s story could ring half-true.

  5. Donald Pay 2016-09-25 12:11

    Who is in charge? Is it the people or the Putin-lite political class?

    Same stuff happens everywhere, and neither party has clean hands. Under political redistricting the “elected representatives” choose their voters, rather than the voters choosing their elected representatives. Both parties do it, and we’ve let them get away with it for too long.

    It’s completely unfair and undemocratic. As Stace says, redistricting is used now to get rid of political opponents in the majority party!!! It’s time for the people to put their foot down on these Putin-like tactics.

  6. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2016-09-25 12:22

    Why would anyone be opposed to an independent committee drawing up the legislative district boundaries? To oppose this idea is to be partisan and to be partisan on this issue is to welcome the reality of gerrymandering itself, whether you think it exists yet or not. And when you look at the realities of Legislative District 15 in Sioux Falls, the verdict is out….. We are being gerrymandered right now and it needs to stop.

  7. Darin Larson 2016-09-25 12:45

    JKC, exactly. If gerrymandering is not going on then why would the Republicans like Bolin oppose losing their power to gerrymander? If everything in the redistricting process is fair, nonpartisan, and without political targets, then why oppose an independent commission?

    Bolin is either a simpleton or a lying, conniving, partisan hack. I have a notion that it is the latter.

    Even Brian Gosch’s ballot advice to vote for a provision just because the Republican legislature passed it is more honest and straightforward than Bolin’s contention that there is no gerrymandering. Bolin insults us all with his lies. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-25 13:21

    Stace Nelson, your willingness to talk straight about this issue and call out the hogwash of your party’s leadership earns you respect on this blog. Thank you.

  9. Mark Winegar 2016-09-25 13:28

    If there is no gerrymandering as Rep. Bolin claims then there is no valid reason for the GOP to object to Amendment T as the commission would draw the very same district boundaries and we all know that isn’t going to happen.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-25 13:36

    Jim Bolin is not simpleton. I’ve talked with him. He taught social studies. He is smart.

    From the people I’ve talked to so far, I get the impression that folks promoting Amendment T would do well to play Rep. Bolin’s statement—”The map that was produced for the state of South Dakota was in no way a gerrymander”—to informed voters of all parties and record their immediate reactions.

  11. Stace Nelson 2016-09-25 14:09

    @CAH My duty was/is to my fellow South Dakotans via the principles I told them I would serve them with. It was because of my opposition to such corruption of our state government that I earned their ire and their dishonest efforts that ensued. There is more ugly corruption to the story, but you get the picture. I do not think the initiative is the answer; however, I couldn’t abide Rep Bolin’s dishonest statements.

    All one has to do is zoom in on Bon Homme County to see evidence of the brazenness of their gerrymandering efforts

  12. 96Tears 2016-09-25 14:09

    Republicans have turned gerrymandering in South Dakota to a fine art. I watched their handiwork during the 1991, 2001 and 2011 redistricting meetings and special sessions. Only an idiot or a bald-faced liar would publicly say gerrymandering of the worst sort did not occur in each episode.

    What creeps like Bolin know but will not admit, those legislative districts, that legislature and the process of governing are not the property of the SDGOP. The districts belong to the people and their function is to represent and act accordingly. When elected officials pull away control of governing our state from the people, as much as the SDGOP has, people become disinterested and alienated from their government and the people who were entrusted to do their jobs wisely and transparently.

    The people of South Dakota need to wake up. They need to take back their state government. Removing redistricting from the greedy clutches of the SDGOP is a good first start. They have proven themselves as traitors to the public who expect fair and reasonable government. State government should not be a spoils system that starts with the district you live in.

    That district belongs to its citizens.

  13. Stace Nelson 2016-09-25 14:41

    @96 such corruption is a problem of power, not party. In this case we had dishonest politicians who happened to claim to be Republicans doing it.

    Single Representative districts, and permanent geographical senate representation would go a long way to fix the perversion of the district lines for politics.

  14. grudznick 2016-09-25 14:55

    Anybody could teach Social Studies. Most people have, so that doesn’t prove anything. But what I say does not mean Mr. Bolin did not rise to his power leader position in the legislatures due to his smartness. He is smart I am sure.

  15. 96Tears 2016-09-25 15:08

    @Stace Nelson, I agree. The governmental process is so gridlocked not only in D.C., but also in nearly all state capitols. It’s ridiculous, but also very costly. I agree with the reform measures on the ballot this year, or at least the spirit of those reforms. They need to go a few steps further if we expect to have an effective democratically-elected republic in the coming decades. The two major parties, as they are currently doing business, are badly decayed relics of the 20th Century. They have no useful purpose. It’s time to re-invent how we govern and select leaders in this country. South Dakota stands as an example of the extreme dysfunction of the present system.

  16. Douglas Wiken 2016-09-25 18:19

    Gerrymandering distorts democracy and causes economic, social, and environmental waste and partisan boondoggles.

    My proposal for one house based on a statewide district with slates getting their percentage of the vote might be a simple solution to alleviate gerrymandering.

  17. owen reitzel 2016-09-25 20:12

    I don’t agree with Stace on much but I do on this. When District 19 was formed everybody knew why it was created and that was to get Frank Kloucek out of the legislature as Stace said.
    I’m also guessing if things stay the same and Stace gets into the Senate and it’s time to redraw Districts people like Bolin will redraw District 19 so it’ll be almost impossible for him to win.
    The District lines will be as screwy as they are now

  18. Leo 2016-09-25 20:38

    Owen is right. District 19 seems to be the only spur in the corrupt SD government’s saddle. Whether the spur be from its own Frank Kloucek, Russell Graeff, Melissa Mentele or Stace Nelson, the people of District 19 want transparency and justice from our government.

  19. Donald Pay 2016-09-25 21:14

    Rapid City districts may not seem to be odd shaped, but anyone who knows the politics of the city knows they have split the likely Democratic vote four ways, carving north Rapid and East Rapid up. The Indian vote was completely dismembered in what should be an illegal attempt to construct a racial barrier to electing a representative.

    Democrats in Rapid City were always going to have to work extra hard to win, since they are vastly outnumbered, but they had a chance with the right candidate in the right years to win in one and sometimes two districts. 1991 began the gerrymandering effort. They didn’t quite get the job done right that year, so there were a few Democrat wins in the 1990s.

  20. Moses11 2016-09-25 23:14

    way to go Stacy.

  21. Dana P 2016-09-26 08:12

    Good job Mr Nelson, and thank you!

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-26 10:06

    I find a funny dissonance among my Republican friends: one minute, Jim Bolin says independent redistricting is really a plot “to elect people that are more in line with liberal ideas as far as spending money and a whole host of issues.” The next minute, I hear Republicans saying that Republican-drawn redistricting has resulted in Republicans losing seats. There’s a disconnect there: either Republicans believe redistricting can be used to rig the map in favor of one party or another, or they don’t think honest redistricting favors any party’s fortunes, that there are many other factors that go into who wins in November.

    I’ll admit that I don’t think T guarantees Democratic ascendancy. We still have to recruit good candidates, raise money, make our case boldly, and get out the vote. Fairly drawn districts could result in proportionate distributions of Democrats and Republicans that could leave our party at a numerical disadvantage everywhere except Indian country. But at least those districts would be fairly drawn, and that’s the fundamental principle that Bolin and the SDGOP can’t beat.

  23. Darin Larson 2016-09-26 10:20

    How could it be a liberal plot if it is an independent commission that is not controlled by the parties? Bolin’s narrative that we are supposed to believe is that the Republicans are not currently gerrymandering, but an independent commission without a majority of any one party will gerrymander in favor of liberals? Liar, liar, pants on fire, Mr. Bolin. Be a man and admit that you are a partisan hack like Brian Gosch intent on keeping your party’s power to dole out punishment to adversaries–be they Democrats or Republicans–who don’t do your bidding.

  24. Stace Nelson 2016-09-26 11:05

    @Owen They Gerrymandered the new District 19 to cut me out of 75% of the district I was elected in, and cut out the biggest area of support for Frank and place new counties into the district to make it harder for him to get re-elected. They hoped having 75% new district several months before the election would make it impossible for me to survive in the district establishment favorite Jim Putnam was elected in for 24 years.

    I think the IM allows the redistricting bias to be dispersed into an unelected commission that is not accountable to the voters. I think the solution to this problem is again, single representative districts and permanent geographical senate districts. Breaking up the representative districts allow for more accountability and makes it harder for them to gerrymander.

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-26 13:49

    Stace, what would you say to the argument that Frank would have lost in his old district in 2012?

  26. Stace Nelson 2016-09-26 18:13

    @CAH The roughly 25% change in his old district excised some of his strongest Democrat areas that helped elect him for 22 years. It is hard to say how he would have done in his old district. I think he and other SD Democrats suffered a backlash from DC politics that were not playing well across SD at that time.

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-26 22:19

    Well, that’s a bummer, Stace. If Dems in the White House spell bad news for us South Dakota Dems, tonight’s debate demonstrated we’re in for another hard four years.

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