South Dakota gets 'C-plus' grade for redistricting
Monday, October 16, 2023
A non-partisan political group is out with state-by-state grades for recent redistricting efforts, including South Dakota.
Common Cause gives South Dakota a C-plus for how it carried out the process of redrawing legislative districts based on updated Census data.
The report credits the Legislature for holding numerous hearings and allowing testimony from community members. But the authors say there wasn't enough education about the details.
OJ Semans Sr. - co-executive director of the Native American group Four Directions - said for tribal communities and organizers, he agreed with the report and that there were barriers. But it wasn't all bad.
"It did take a while to get the Legislature in coming out and actually meeting with tribes," said Semans, "but the outcome was beneficial for Indian country in South Dakota."
He said policymakers heard concerns about specific regions, resulting in some gains.
That includes the Crow Creek and Lower Brule reservations being drawn into a single state legislative district, as opposed to fragmenting those boundaries and hindering tribal representation.
Semans said groups like his also made sure tribal representatives were more present at redistricting meetings, a factor cited by Common Cause.
But the report says under-resourced communities need more funding and other support to train participants, and Semans added a separate, longstanding issue still exists.
"The challenge is to get the United States Census to do a proper job," said Semans.
Native Americans have been historically undercounted in the Census. The report recommends solutions such as hiring tribal members as census workers or having them guide census staff around reservations.
The Census Bureau recently announced it will create a new federal advisory committee in hopes of addressing issues like undercounts ahead of the 2030 Census.
Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
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