Sixteen state lawmakers making up North Dakota’s redistricting committee met today to redraw the state’s lines.
It’s the first of a series of public meetings over the next few weeks to account for the state’s population growth since 2010.
This past decade, North Dakota grew about 16 percent — putting it in the top five states for population growth.
Considering that uptick, lawmakers have the option to increase the number of districts across the state. Currently, the state has 47 districts, but it could have up to 54, according to the state constitution.
Most of the growth is concentrated in urban areas and parts impacted by the oil boom, but 30 counties in mostly rural areas lost population.
That decrease is concerning for rural voters, whose districts could soon be larger and more disconnected from their representatives.
“First, we will have some areas of the state where districts will become much, much larger. Our members are concerned that the larger the district gets, the less they have the opportunity they can directly interact with their elected officials,” North Dakota Farmers Union Representative Matt Perdue said.
In addition to hearing the concerns of rural voters, lawmakers also heard testimony from those representing Native Americans in the state.
Collette Brown of the Spirit Lake Tribe asked that the committee not split reservations in order to keep Native American interests together.
“Spirit Lake and its communities are a community of interest and should remain in a single legislative district. Splitting the reservation and our communities into multiple districts would dilute the ability of tribal members to elect a representative of their choice,” Brown said.
The committee will meet next on Sept. 8 in Fargo, then back in Bismarck for three more meetings.
After that, the entire legislature will meet in November to agree on a final map.