ND Legislature passes new redistricting map with subdivisions; goes to Burgum
BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota’s legislature completed one of the major projects slated for this special session. Lawmakers passed the bill containing the new legislative district boundaries.
But it wasn’t without controversy and heavy debate.
For the first time in state history, North Dakota’s legislature will feature subdistricts. Two districts in the north-central part of the state will be split in half, where one half of the district will select a member for the house and the other half will select the other.
The splits were made on behalf of tribal nations hoping to get a better chance at electing one of their community members to the legislature after they say their candidates are regularly out-voted.
Other states have installed subdistricts and recent court rulings have forced other states to put in subdistricts in order to give minority communities a higher likelihood of having representation in the state legislature.
Reasons for support range from improving how well the legislative body reflects the demographics of the state to avoiding expensive court battles over the new map.
Those who oppose the move say the decision is unfair to voters in these districts, because these districts would only be able to select one member of the House where all other districts can select two. There were attempts in both chambers to remove the subdistricts during floor debates, but both the House and Senate voted to approve the divisions.
“We’ve gone in the wrong direction, in my opinion, and we’ll see where it goes. I’m concerned for the citizens of my district. I’m afraid this will add to the division instead of bringing us together as North Dakota citizens so we can move forward in a positive way,” said Rep. Terry Jones, R-New Town, who’s district is slated for subdivision.
While some districts get split, others are being dissolved entirely.
Due to city populations growing faster than rural areas, three rural districts are being moved to more urban areas. The loudest opponents to the new lines have been the members of District 26, who will be losing their seats in the legislature because their communities are being absorbed by another district which already has sitting assembly members.
“In the end, people do need to get redistricted. It’s just the way it is... I will find a different district and I will continue to run. I’m excited. I like going door to door to door, I like representing the people, and if they want me to represent them then I’ll do it in a different district,” said Sen. Jason Heitkamp, R-Wahpeton, after his district was voted to be moved.
The map now goes to Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., to be signed into law. In the new year, parties will reorganize based on the new lines and legislative members. New districts will hold elections to fill their legislative seats in the November elections.
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