While the League of Women Voters and numerous allies consider initiating a Constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission, the Legislature has one bill relating to its power to draw the boundaries of Legislative districts. Senator Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton), a crafty elitist on whom we must keep close watch, has proposed Senate Bill 80, which leaves intact his and his partisan colleagues’ power to rig the map in favor of their reëlection and natters at the edges of the non-binding principles in which they cloak their selfish decennial labors.
Senate Bill 80 updates the redistricting criteria statute (SDCL 2-2-41) to refer to 2021’s round of mapping. SB 80 then adds one phrase, clarifying that the respect legislators are to give to “geographical and political boundaries” when gerrymandering are “specifically, counties and municipalities.”
That specification appears to remove consideration of rivers, highways, contour lines, and any other geographical markings that might come up in any good cartographical activity. Whether such geographical diversity crops up in any redistricting discussion seems unlikely.
SB 80’s specification of county and municipal boundaries as objects of respect seems to do nothing to change the inevitable division of our largest cities, which is where our one-party regime does its best gerrymandering. Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Aberdeen are each home to more people than can be in one Legislative district, so Criterion #3 of the Legislature’s professed redistricting principles can’t be followed, and the Legislature will thus continue to carve up our largest metro populations into wild shapes that pack and crack any Democratic voting populations.
It’s not Senator Bolin to propose such a minimally effective piece of legislation. Keep an eye on him when he brings Senate Bill 80 to Senate State Affairs Wednesday morning; SB 80 could be just a hoghouse vehicle to entertain other, broader notions rattling around in Republican heads for rigging the election map through 2030.