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House Grouse Map Splits Vermillion into Three Districts

A couple of Twitter friends point out one radical bit of gerrymandering in the House-favored “Grouse” redistricting map proposed by Representative Drew Dennert (R-3/Aberdeen):

Thomas Mack & Cully Williams, tweets on Grouse redistricting map split of Vermillion, 2021.10.14–15.
Thomas Mack & Cully Williams, tweets on Grouse redistricting map split of Vermillion, 2021.10.14–15.

Vermillion is the county seat of Clay County and home of the University of South Dakota. The 2020 Census found 11,695 people there. That’s less than half the target population of 25,333 the law and Census figures dictate for South Dakota’s new Legislative districts. Yet the Grouse map sees fit to carve relatively liberal (translation: centrist, but appearing far left in comparison to Drew Dennert and his radical right-wing colleagues in the House) Vermillion into three districts. Three.

That’s what you liberals get for supporting education with a 75% vote in favor of a school-building bond.

Oh, and that little outline southeast of Vermillion, split between the green finger of new District 16 and the ochre tail of new District 19? That’s Burbank, population 93, split along the Burbank Road.

University town Aberdeen has a 2020 population of 28,495, yet Dennert carves his voting town into just two pieces:

Grouse map, Aberdeen, retrieved 2021.10.15.
Grouse map, Aberdeen, retrieved 2021.10.15.

Similarly liberal university town Brookings falls short of the target population by a couple thousand (23,377), but Grouse manages to put all of Brookings in one district:

Grouse map, Brookings, retrieved 2021.10.15.
Grouse map, Brookings, retrieved 2021.10.15.

Grouse manages to keep Watertown and every other smaller town intact. But Vermillion gets carved into three districts.

Even when I went on a city-splitting binge to balance populations and reduce district sprawl in my sample August redistricting map, I split no town smaller than Rapid City into more than two districts.

According to DistrictBuilder, this reach along the Missouri River brings 1,587 people into the new District 16. It unites the folks around The Bluffs golf course and Vermillionites south of Lewis Street with the Dan Lederman country club crowd over at Dakota Dunes. That split keeps District 16 from having to slide north and take in Sioux Falls metro voters, something Rep. Kevin Jensen (R-16/Canton) was crying about earlier this fall.

To the north, the new Districts 18 and 19 split the USD campus down the middle, with the DakotaDome and the Law School going to 18 and Yankton while Nygaard Field and the Knutson Theatre go to more rural 19.

I recognize how hard it is to draw balanced Legislative maps that achieve the target population without breaking up too many community boundaries. But the House’s proposed three-way split of Vermillion unnecessarily creates three stretched districts. The House could achieve more compact districts by simply continuing the new District 16 line straight south from the Turner County line to reach 16 six sections east into Clay on down to the Vermillion city limits and taking another 500 people from District 6 in Union County, then letting 19 and 6 resolve their differences by eating into some of Grouse’s gerrymandering of Sioux Falls.

The Senate Falcon map does not split Vermillion at all; it leaves Coyoteville intact within new District 17 similar to the current 17. Senate Blackbird and Senate Eagle keep Vermillion intact while uniting southern Clay and extreme southern Union in a new District 17.

So yeah, at least in southeastern South Dakota, it looks like our Senators are better at drawing balanced maps than our House members. And I doubt our Supreme Court would come up with as odd a plan for Vermillion as Representative Dennert.


  1. Mark Anderson 2021-10-15

    Jeez, I’ve lived in all three sections of Vermintown, three votes? What if you move from one section to another how long before you get to vote, just a whole mess of questions? DD sure is a fraidy cat isn’t he?

  2. ArloBlundt 2021-10-15

    Well…it seems the Republican House has no trouble disenfranchising 18 year olds. The Party can be depended upon to defend the status quo at the expense of the future.

  3. Richard Schriever 2021-10-16

    Puts the Jocks’ and B-school types’ dorms in one more liberal trending district and the Arts and Arts’ dorms along with the professorially dominated residences in more conservative ones. Hmmmm, Maybe Dennert is more familiar with the goings on in Vermintown than we think.

  4. Doug Kronaizl 2021-10-16

    At the last redistricting meeting in SF, quite a few people spoke up in favor of keeping Clay and Turner counties intact. Dennert said he was looking at something more like Falcon’s Clay-Turner combo for the Grouse map so there’s something to keep an eye out for when revisions drop!

  5. Mark Anderson 2021-10-16

    Hey by any chance is Drew Dennert, disgusted dakotan, it would fit.

  6. grudznick 2021-10-16

    That’s all very amusing. I know your libbie panties are all in a bunch, but you fellows do understand that young Mr. Dennert, the youngest of them all, is not really a leader in the legislatures and is soundly mocked about the lobbies and bars of the town. Young Mr. Dennert does not carry much weight, he is a very light shoed fellow. I would not grouse much about this here particular plan, just yet.

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