PIERRE, S.D. — A week after the South Dakota redistricting committees toured the state hearing from a number of Indigenous voters frustrated by proposed new district lines, a new map has emerged from a Rapid City Republican legislator that, if approved, would allow a single-member House district for North Rapid City and potentially give greater legislative voice to urban Native American voters in the state.
At the Monday, Oct. 18, meeting in Pierre, Rep. Tina Mulally, R-Rapid City, introduced a map called "Mockingbird" that would stretch District 34 to cover the neighborhood in North Rapid, which the state estimates contains roughly 12,000 Native American residents. Mulally's map would also split District 34's two House seats geographically in separate sub-districts, including one voting area in which Native Americans would comprise over 40% of the population.
Currently, two other districts in the state -- District 28, comprising Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Indian reservations, as well as District 26, which spans Rosebud Indian reservation -- are the state's only single-member House districts.
"In Rapid City, North Rapid is primarily a Native American community," observed Mulally, who noted she knew the neighborhood, currently split over four voting districts, as she'd been married in the area. "I believe Mockingbird splitting 34 into A and B would give the Native Americans ... much more ... community continuity."
Mullaly noted that the new district would be 40% Native American, while competing maps -- including senate-leadership-endorsed "Blackbird" -- would effectively "dilute" the Native American vote by putting North Rapid in with much of existing District 33, historically a GOP stronghold.
However, Mullaly noted that she splits precincts in order to accomplish Mockingbird's goals, including separating a southern reach of one precinct that includes the Lakota Homes housing development.
When pressed by Sen. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, about whether she'd checked with the Pennington County auditor about splitting precincts, she acknowledged she'd yet to reach out.
Monday's meeting culminated last week's three-day tour, from Rapid City to Rosebud to Mobridge and down to Sioux Falls for public meetings. In response to public feedback lamenting the absence of detailed, digital amps, the committees on Monday approved providing the public with more detailed maps by uploading proposals to a third-party website called "Dave's Redistricting" (davesredistricting.org). At the moment, the proposed maps are screenshots of a software and provide limited information to the public, a complaint raised by the public last week.
Rep. Mike Derby, R-Rapid City, also noted he was preparing to draw up a map using public feedback from the tour. Staff attorney Matt Frame asked legislators to prepare final proposed maps by November 1. The Senate and House will meet on Nov. 8 for a special session in Pierre. If legislators don't approve a new map by the month's end, the South Dakota Supreme Court will take up the task of redrawing maps.
The committees meet Monday, Oct. 25, for the final scheduled time before the special session.