North Dakota House approves legislative map with subdistricts for two reservations

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North Dakota’s House voted Tuesday to approve new legislative districts for the next ten years.

House legislators OK’d a map adding two districts to the Williston area and one to the Fargo area.

They also approved split house districts for the Fort Berthold reservation in District 4 and the Turtle Mountain reservation in District 9.

“The committee put it in because it’s settled, settled federal law,” Rep. Bill Devlin (R) Finley said.

Tribal leaders have asked for subdistricts because they say it’d give their members a better shot at getting elected to the assembly.

But it didn’t pass easily.

“If we leave subdistricts in this bill, we will be guilty of racial gerrymandering,” Rep. Terry Jones (R) New Town said.

After nearly two hours of debate and and two separate votes, the final bill passed 73 to 18.

Lawmakers on the redistricting committee spoke in support of the bill. Their committee approved it unanimously Tuesday morning ahead of the House vote.

“The committee has worked diligently on this subject. We did not do this half-cocked,” Rep. Mike Nathe (R) Bismarck said.

Redistricting committee chairman Bill Devlin emphasized that the subdistricts comply with the voting rights act.

He also says if lawmakers don’t act, the courts will.

“I saw states spend $4 million on redistricting fights, I saw states spending $3.5 million on redistricting fights, but what I couldn’t get was what South Dakota spent and that would be a similar situation to ours,” Devlin said.

The Senate also must approve the bill before it becomes law.

They’re expected to have a vote in the coming days.

The Senate is also expected to vote on its appropriation bill allocating ARPA money Wednesday morning.

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