BOX ELDER, S.D. — The dueling South Dakota Legislature redistricting committees kicked off a tour of the state on Monday, Oct. 11, in Rapid City, hearing from the public on two contested districts in evolving maps: Rapid Valley and North Rapid.
The districts — one a conservative-leaving sub-division, the other a contingent of urban, Democratic-voting Native Americans on the city's northeast side — are at the heart of discussions over new map that must be endorsed by the Legislature before December, lest the state Supreme Court be called upon to draw the new map.
Miller Cannizzaro, a resident of North Rapid, stood up to say the current map is confusingly drawn, linking portions of the urban area with residents down in Rapid Valley.
"Previously I lived off a trailer park out in the Valley, and these are very different places," Cannizzaro said. "It seems odd that they would be represented [by legislators] farther out in the Valley."
A map called "Blackbird," authored by Sen. Casey Crabtree, R-Madison, has been endorsed by senate leadership, while another, "Grouse," authored by Rep. Drew Dennert, R-Aberdeen, has gained popularity in the house. Both largely contain similar lines as those drawn in 2010, but the senate map stretches Rapid City's District 34 farther west into the Black Hills, lops off North Rapid into a district that stretches west to Wyoming and Pactola Reservoir. Meanwhile, the house map effectively cuts North Rapid in half, but draws a firmer line around Rapid City's western edge.
A third map called "Eagle," drawn by Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, is the only map to draw relatively tightly around North Rapid.
"You know when you're in that district and when you're out of it," Heinert said. "District 34 is a completely new boundary that represents more of the downtown and North Rapid, which, in previous testimony, we heard is a community of interest."
"Eagle," like the previous two maps, break up the loosely affiliated sub-developments of Rapid Valley.
Members of the public who stood on Monday to testify say this is by design, arguing State Senate Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck wishes to rid the caucus of more far-right membership.
Rapid Valley contains roughly 8,000-plus residents running east from Rapid City in modular homes and newer developments to the airport and is currently represented on the Rapid City Area Schools Board of Education by Kate Thomas, a firebrand who has opposed mask mandates.
Two weeks ago, unity between the house and senate teams, which have been conducting joint meetings since March, hit a snag when the senate moved forward with approving a proposed map without the house's consent. That day, the house gaveled out and last week met on their own.
The committees are meeting jointly this week, however, with a second meeting on Monday on the Rosebud Indian reservation. On Tuesday, Oct. 12, they'll meet in Mobridge, Aberdeen and Watertown. They'll finish the tour with two meetings on Wednesday, Oct. 13, in Sioux Falls.