North Dakota redistricting committee discusses draft maps for growing areas

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Lawmakers whose districts grew over the last decade shared map drafts for their region.

Some of the proposals, like in the Fargo and Williston areas, would add new districts entirely, meaning rural areas could soon see big changes in their representation.

“The connections and the chaos in trying to figure this, what is a neighborhood and what isn’t, it’s a challenge,” Sen. Ronald Sorvaag (R-Fargo) said.

The redistricting panel, made up of 14 Republicans and two Democrats, is aiming to keep the number of districts at 47 while shifting the shapes of the districts to each hold about 16,500 people.

Minot Rep. Randy Burkhard proposed a map that largely keeps the districts in that area the same, except for moving part of District 38 into District 5 to accommodate for growth.

“The Minot footprint has grown by 60 percent in the last ten years. And part of that is the flood effect and the Bakken effect,” Burkhard said.

Williston Rep. Brad Bekkedahl’s area saw the largest population increase in the country because of the oil boom.

He says the growth of MHA Nation on the reservation of Fort Berthold could make house subdistricts in that area a real possibility since the reservation would have about 50 percent of the population of the proposed district.

“The reservation population currently is under the new census is 8,350 people, so that essentially would be its own subdistrict if you just use the reservation boundaries. It fits exactly to be about 50 percent,” Bekkedahl said.

While those areas saw growth, 30 counties lost population. Some lawmakers from rural areas say adjusting for those districts could be more difficult.

“The problem for me is gonna be what to do with rural districts. Every one of them is short 2,000 to 3,000 people. It’s been a real challenge,” Rep. Bill Devlin (R-Finley) said.

The last two redistricting meetings before lawmakers have to agree on a map are next week. After that, the entire legislature will meet in November to vote on it.

Committee Chairman Devlin said starting next week lawmakers will begin to further consider what the rural districts should look like, as long as there’s mostly agreement with the urban areas.

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