Gerrymandering is a factor in South Dakota

Argus Leader — South Dakota’s election map is stacked against Democrats more than any other state in the nation, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Nearly 2 in 5 votes cast in 2016 state House races went to Democratic candidates, but the party captured only 14 percent of seats in the chamber.

That’s the widest “efficiency gap” among any state, according to the analysis, which used the same mathematical formula cited last fall by a federal appeals court that struck down Wisconsin’s state Assembly districts as intentional partisan gerrymandering.

The analysis supports some Democrats’ claims that the state’s dominant party has used its power to marginalize the minority party. Meanwhile, the chair of the South Dakota Republican Party dismissed the numbers as “fantasy.”

Other factors, such as geographic concentrations of voters for one party or another, could also affect a state’s efficiency gap.

Ultimately, partisans who have a problem with the way legislative districts are drawn in the state might want to blame the system rather than political opponents, said Emily Wanless, an Augustana University political science professor.

“Republicans have drawn themselves rather securely in the state,” Wanless said. “A bigger source of the problem isn’t the GOP but the mechanisms we use to draw lines.”

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