Tribal leaders call on redistricting committee to make House subdistricts

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Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith says what the tribe wants is simple.

“We ask that you seriously look at subdistricting District 31. We want a voice in there,” Faith said.

Standing Rock’s reservation is part of District 31, which encompasses Grant, Sioux, Hettinger and Morton Counties.

The tribe’s representatives say they’d have a better chance at electing one of their own if the House districts were split — for instance, by having Sioux and Grant Counties elect a representative, while the rest of the district represents the other.

Another solution discussed: better communication by the current representatives.

“I would say the fix, the easiest way to do it is if we had some Republican representation that would engage with these communities in Sioux county,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Councilman Charles Walker said.

Lawmakers pushed back on the proposal — saying that subdistricts would give tribes the chance to vote for just two lawmakers instead of the three they can currently, essentially lowering their chances of representation.

“How does that make for better representation when you’re losing 33% of your representation?” Rep. Austen Schauer (R-West Fargo) said.

Lawmakers also said it doesn’t appear there’s enough population in that district to fairly and legally divide it.

“If the native population was 50% that’s pretty easy to argue. When you get down to 23%, that’s less arguable,” Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) said.

Vice Chairman Ray Holmberg, who’s served on the committee for decades says subdistricts have been discussed before but never stuck.

He says the idea might be a possibility for the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation, who have a greater population, but it might not be feasible for Standing Rock.

“Clearly, the MHA Nation, which has exactly the population for one House member would certainly in my mind qualify. The other ones, it becomes, ‘Is this the right thing to do?'” Holmberg said.

The committee also presented draft maps but will continue discussion on drawing the lines in a meeting Thursday morning.

After this week’s meetings, there will be just two more next week, when lawmakers will have to come to a consensus on a map. Then, the entire legislature will reconvene in November to vote on it.

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