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ND Lawmakers to decide on subdivisions Wednesday

Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 6:27 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - After much debate and some reluctance among themselves, North Dakota lawmakers will soon decide on a plan to subdivide one of North Dakota’s legislative districts.

The state has seen lawsuits to subdivide in the past, but the courts ruled that the population wasn’t big enough at the time. This time, the Native American population is big enough, and lawmakers must decide if they will draw lines to avoid litigation or test the precedent.

To subdivide or no to subdivide; that is the question presented to lawmakers.

The lines are drawn and districts settled... for now.

But there’s one more part of the map to determine: whether to split certain districts to help tribal nations gain more representation.

“Allowing subdistricting, I think, gives strong representation for those communities to elect someone of their choosing, not necessarily having to be a tribal member or not a tribal member, but someone of their choice versus a dilution of votes because of a greater, larger district,” said House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo.

Most of the focus is on two districts in the northern part of the state.

If Districts 4 and 9 were subdivided as-is, the Native American population would be more than half of their areas.

Based on recent federal court rulings, this would warrant a subdivision.

But lawmakers must decide if the legislature will put in the lines or if a lawsuit will force them to.

“I’m not going to lose sleep one way or another. I personally believe it’s going to happen whether we do it, we drive it, we put the lines down, or we let someone else do it,” said Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks.

While lawmakers decide who will be the ones to draw the lines, legislators who represent those districts are fighting against the momentum, and asking why the tribes should get their subdistricts.

“It really kindof hurt my feelings when they said they wanted better representation. And I said, ‘how are they going to to get anything better than me? I’m a pretty good guy.’ And I do my best to represent everybody fairly and equally,” said Rep. Terry Jones, R-New Town.

When requesting subdivisions, MHA Chairman Mark Fox said these requests were not comments on their current representation. Rather the tribes looking for their candidates’ efforts diluted by the other parts of the district.

Despite a majority of members on the Redistricting Committee voicing support for some form of subdivision, they pushed that decision back one day.

Some lawmakers said they would only support the splits unless all of the districts were subdivided as well.

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