Lawmakers are moving forward with plans to subdivide districts 4 and 9, which encompass the Fort Berthold and Turtle Mountain Reservations, respectively.
“For some people, it’s because the courts are forcing us to do it, and for others, it’s because it’s the right thing to do,” Sen. Ray Holmberg said.
The 16-member panel voted 10-6 to split districts for House representation, after repeated requests from Tribal leaders saying the move would give them a better chance at getting elected.
District 4 Rep. Terry Jones opposed the split.
“The tribes already have good representation in North Dakota,” Jones said.
Drafts of those new subdistricts were approved, with each subdistrict comprising about 50 percent of the entire district population.
That decision wasn’t without its critics. Neither was the decision to dissolve district 26, whose lawmakers suggested other plans.
“Our main concern is to minimize the number of disenfranchised voters,” Rep. Kathy Skroch said.
Skroch brought forward a new plan entirely, proposed by Sen. Sebastian Ertelt, that keeps her district safe, but got some pushback from other committee members.
“You might say you’re saving a district but really you’re demolishing several,” Sen. Ronald Sorvaag said.
Sen. Holmberg cautioned against saying voters would be disenfranchised in that district. He gave an example of what would happen if a longtime constituent of his could no longer vote for himself because of changes in the district.
“She did not lose a vote. The only thing she no longer can do, unfortunately, she can no longer vote for me,” Holmberg said.
Lawmakers almost unanimously approved the proposed statewide map, subdistricts included.
Even though the committee approved the map today, it’s not set in stone. The proposal will go to the entire legislature for a vote when lawmakers reconvene for a special session starting Nov. 8.
The committee also approved a bill to stagger the terms of lawmakers to account for new district shapes.
To take a look at the proposed map, head here.