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Wallowing in Petty Personal Politics, Legislators May Surrender Redistricting to Supreme Court

Merry Christmas! say Republican legislators to the League of Women Voters and other advocates petitioning for a vote on an independent redistricting commission.

Republicans are apparently so obsessed with carving up the Legislative map to suit their personal and ideological interests that they can’t agree on how to draw the Legislative districts:

The Senate’s map, House members say, intentionally seeks to pit conservative lawmakers that currently hold office against one another and draw some out of their districts entirely. For instance, should the Senate’s map be adopted, Reps. Jon Hansen and Tom Pischke, both Republicans from Dell Rapids who regularly butt-heads with moderate Republicans in the Legislature, would no longer be within the boundaries of District 25.

…[Senator Lee] Schoenbeck told the Argus Leader on Friday the House’s map, drafted by [Representative Drew] Dennert, is “gerrymandered” and looks like “they gave a monkey a switchblade and said carve up South Dakota.” He accused House members of inserting self interests into the process.

“The Speaker put people on the committee who’s goal is to draw lines to protect Legislators who have, let’s say, unique worldviews,” Schoenbeck said. “It’s the House committee taking care of a few of their friends” [Joe Sneve, “Redistricting Talks in South Dakota break Down as Deadline Looms,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2021.10.08].

Those Republicans are either so mad or so bad at doing a job the job they are charged with doing just once every ten years that they are willing to give up and let the Supreme Court draw the map:

Both camps say they’re prepared to let that happen.

“I don’t think it matters,” Schoenbeck said. “There’s a system set up and if the Legislature can agree on one, fine. If they can’t, I don’t think it will be that hard for the Supreme Court to finish the job” [Sneve, 2021.10.08].

Article 3 Section 5 of the South Dakota Constitution delegates redistricting to the Supreme Court if the Legislature fails to approve district maps by December 1.

Legislators are here making two great arguments for an independent redistricting commission. First, they are demonstrating in spades why they can’t be trusted to draw their own map. If they were focused on drawing maps for fair representation of all South Dakota voters, they wouldn’t be having any conversations about which of their incumbent colleagues would end up in which district. Individuals should never factor into determining district maps, yet our legislators are letting individual considerations stop them from carrying out their constitutional duty.

Second, Schoenbeck and the gang are endorsing the concept of an independent redistricting commission. The Supreme Court isn’t the nine-person, party-balanced, temporary team proposed by the LWV initiative petition, but they are five individuals who do not hold public office in the Executive or Legislative branch or in any political party. Justices Jensen, Kern, Salter, DeVaney, and Myren are unlikely to step down from the bench to run for Legislature, so there is little chance they would rig the map to suit their personal political ambitions. The justices are all Republican appointees, but they are insulated from Legislative pressures and have little stake in the personal intra-party squabbling that has led our august statesmen to this embarrassing impasse. The justices are far more likely than legislators to draw fair maps. Their doing so for the maps of the 2020s will provide a glittering example of how an independent redistricting commission can more effectively achieve the goal of fair, ungerrymandered districts that is apparently beyond the capacity of our current legislators.

Legislators, go ahead—throw in the towel. Give the Court the chance to prove that independent redistricting works.

And petitioners, cite this petty squabble in Pierre as evidence that your redistricting initiative is exactly what South Dakota needs to get past petty party politics and provide better representation for all South Dakotans.


  1. Matt 2021-10-08

    The Independent Commission is unnecessary and just a waste. If the Legislature doesn’t do it … reminder: they still have 6+ weeks … the Court does. The process will work in one place or the other. There’s no need to wreck it with more people getting involved.

  2. Porter Lansing 2021-10-08

    Told Y’all So

    The majority in Pierre isn’t capable of the job or anything new.

    It’s why SD ranks at the very bottom of states in the Innovation Skills rating.

  3. Bob Newland 2021-10-08

    If only all legislators could avoid passing laws based on self-interest, as Saint Schoenbeck has done.

  4. grudznick 2021-10-08

    grudznick is a big fan of this chaos. Mr. Shoenbeck knows what he is doing, toying with the weaker-minded speaker and his minions.

  5. Nick Nemec 2021-10-09

    Are the various proposed maps anyplace online?

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-09

    Notice that Matt does not deny the main point: the Legislature is failing to get its job done due to exactly the overriding and inimical-to-fair-representation self-interest of which advocates of independent redistricting accuse them. Legislators see redistricting primarily as self-service, not public service. We should thus take redistricting power out of their hands and give that power to an independent commission that can more reliably and fairly carry out that duty.

    In this case, the Legislature is proving to be unnecessary and a waste. It is even more wasteful to have to hand this duty off to the Supreme Court, whose time is better spent resolving judicial matters.

  7. Donald Pay 2021-10-09

    The SD Legislature has been failing at doing its job for a long time. I’d say that’s its default. When it actually does the job of a legislative body is when there is an even split in the party makeup. That happens very seldom in South Dakota. Otherwise we get these personality disorders and cock fights between the wackadoodle contingent and the elitists in the Republican Party, signifying next to nothing.

    Grudz thinks this monkey business is great. Yeah, if you like watching the decline and fall of democracy, it’s great jockularity. It’s like watching the Jan. 6 insurrection replay.

    At any rate, the politicians should be banned from redistricting chores. A panel of judges making the decisions is fine with me. I wouldn’t mind if they simply zeroed out all the districts, thereby abolishing the entire body. Who needs a Legislature anyway? If they do anything at all, it’s to take South Dakota back to the stone age.

  8. Bob Newland 2021-10-09

    Above all characteristics of grudznutz is that it thinks it is clever.

  9. ArloBlundt 2021-10-09

    Well…I tend to get a kick out of Grudznick’s cynicism at times….he is right that we really should not take the numbskull behavior of the yo-yos in the legislature very seriously…they are only superficially serious about their own mania. They are reflective of the typical Republican voter who fears progress and change, choosing to “put it back the way it was”…whenever that was…rejecting any idea their Grandfather wouldn’t adopt. They live in a world that no longer exists and will do anything to preserve the illusion.

  10. Donald Pay 2021-10-09

    I disagree with your statement above, Arlo: “…he is right that we really should not take the numbskull behavior of the yo-yos in the legislature very seriously…” They are all numbskulls. That’s the problem. Just think of the end result coming out of that body.

    Grudz is an elitist. It was the elitists who brung the sewage ash scam and all the failed scandal-ridden “next big things.” The yo-yos diddle around trans issues and the elitists bring the “next big thing” scandals. Both end up embarrassing the few sane people left in South Dakota.

  11. ArloBlundt 2021-10-09

    Of course you’re correct, Donald. I would just advise people not to lose their equilibrium or sense of the absurd when confronted with the new fascism. The elitists do have an agenda and it is destructive of democracy. They believe only a small, discreet group of people are suitable to govern, all others are surplus or overhead.

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