North Dakota lawmakers have officially approved a preliminary map of the state’s legislative boundaries for the next 10 years.
That plan will undergo further changes next week with some district shapes still being debated.
Though much of the work is done, discussion over subdistricts for reservations is ongoing.
According to Sen. Ray Holmberg, the state has never split house districts for reservations, but the renewed consideration has created controversy.
“You have all received I’m sure from folks saying that, if you don’t subdivide, you are a racist. I’ve had people who say if you divide it, you’re a racist. So you lose, no matter what we do,” Holmberg said.
Each district elects three members to the legislature at large — that’s two representatives and one senator.
But, if lawmakers split a district into parts A and B, each of those subdistricts could elect a House member from their area.
MHA Nation Chairman Mark Fox says he knows it wouldn’t guarantee a tribal member’s election, but it would help.
“We are confident, however, that it will increase the representation of our issues and concerns to the legislative body,” Fox said.
For MHA’s reservation, Fort Berthold in District 4, the numbers check out. The reservation has about 8,300 people, making it almost perfectly half of the roughly 16,500-person district.
To not act, according to Holmberg, might lead to lawsuits.
“Are we going to do it? Or let the courts do it?” Holmberg said.
While subdistricts have yet to be decided, a map of the entire state has been approved.
That includes one new district in the Fargo area, being named District 10, and two new districts in the oil-rich Williston area — being named Districts 23 and 26.
The discussion over subdistricts will continue into next week, during the last two redistricting meetings before the special session in November.
Lawmakers have sent the preliminary map to legislative council to review it for any legal issues. The entire 141 member legislature will have the final say and get to make changes on it during the November session.