You may have heard that the South Dakota Farmer's Union has begun the process of changing the Constitution to make sure the districts are designed by an independent group of people instead of partisan politicians. This is an issue whose time has come pretty much everywhere and that includes South Dakota.
Gerrymandering (or even the potential) is dangerous in many ways:
1. Gerrymandering creates voter apathy when "safe" districts are used. As Mary Sanchez, a nationally syndicated columnist, stated:
Clearly, gerrymandering is a political tool of both parties. It is used to strip competition from elections, which contributes to voter apathy.Why vote when there is nothing you can do about it? The same person wins over and over despite being in the minority of the state's beliefs, how can I change it. This becomes a direct threat to the idea of democracy.
2. Gerrymandering creates more polarization in government. Nathan S. Catanese wrote in the 2014 Notre Dame Law, Ethics, and Public Policy Review:
With more members elected from districts in which there is no threat from an opposing party, there is less incentive for members of Congress to moderate or to make bipartisan deals. This is because the only likelihood of their losing an election is from losing to a more ideologically extreme candidate in a primary election. Ultimately, this polarization leads to less policy-making and more gridlock in Washington.3. It makes the elected representatives less concerned about the will of the general constituents and more worried about the primary voter in his or her party only. From the above cited Notre Dame paper:
...“Influenced by law and economics, public choice theory makes the . . . assumption that individuals are motivated exclusively by self-interest. Thus, legislators are motivated primarily by the desire to be reelected . . . .”127 But if reelection in gerrymandered districts is assured, then legislators lose the motivation to act in a manner that would help to ensure their electoral success.
Essentially, members of Congress from heavily gerrymandered districts, because of the preordained electoral outcomes in those districts, take it for granted that they will be reelected. Consequently, members of Congress may not listen to the opinions of the entire electorate in their district—they may only care about the opinions of primary voters.128The next question is "Does South Dakota participate in this practice?" The answer is yes. Bob Mercer in a post going after the actions of the amendment wrote:
There’s no question Republicans have drawn the lines to their advantage in recent decades. But how much advantage should be examined. They jammed Democrat Paul Dennert into a difficult position, and he lost to another incumbent, Republican Al Novstrup, in 2012.Mercer points out in the article that playing with the boundaries will have little impact on the number of members it elects to Pierre. In that situation, he is correct. That, however, is not the issue of the amendment. It is about doing what is right. It is about not giving one party (either party) the opportunity to dictate elections. The South Dakota Farmers Union writes on its website explaining the move:
South Dakota Farmers Union has united with a number of organizations to form the #SDRtThing2Do Coalition. This coalition looks to be a positive force in South Dakota and will begin collecting petition signatures for a Constitutional Amendment on Redistricting very soon. Before voters have the opportunity to vote this Constitutional Amendment into law, the group will need to collect 27,741 signatures to get it on the Nov. 2016 ballot.
"For too long we have had misrepresentation as a result of poor redistricting practices," said Wayne Soren, South Dakota Farmers Union Vice President. "South Dakota Farmers Union, along with the other organizations, chose to amend the state's Constitution as it pertains to redistricting because it is the right thing to do."Mr. Mercer, that is why you should not pish-posh this idea. It is not about the parties, it must be about the people. The implications of gerrymandering is wrong in so many ways, but simply because it is an affront to the basic tenants of representative democracy, that we must work to prevent gerrymandering from happening.
From the South Dakota Farmer's Union website: