BISMARCK, ND (AP) – The Republican-led House of North Dakota on Tuesday approved a new legislative map that creates three new districts in the state’s fastest growing areas, but erases an equal amount in them sparsely populated rural areas.
Representatives voted 73-18 to approve the new map that also separates House districts on two Native American reservations in the state, a move tribal leaders believe will increase the chances of electing their own members to the assembly. legislative.
Several GOP House lawmakers spoke out against the divided districts on reserves, saying it was unfair and unnecessary. Backers said the state faces a federal lawsuit if the divided districts are not included in the plan.
The measure is now before the Senate for review, where it is expected to be approved with little opposition.
A North Dakota legislative constituency now has a senator and two members of the chamber, each elected to represent the entire region. In a sub-district, the senator would always represent the entire district. It would be split in half for representation in the House, with a member of the House representing each half.
The Divided Districts are found within the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in northern North Dakota and the Fort Berthold Reservation, the heart of the state’s oilfield in the western part of the state, and home to the three tribes affiliates.
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Turtle Mountain and Three Affiliated were the only tribes of the five that occupy the state’s Native American reservations to have the population necessary to qualify under the Federal Voting Rights Act for House-Divided Districts, representing currently about 8,450 people for each divided district.
During the effort to redistribute the legislature in 1991, the three affiliated tribes filed a federal complaint to force legislators to create subdistricts on the Fort Berthold reservation. A judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying a sub-district would not have a majority of Native American voters.
Finley GOP Rep. Bill Devlin, chairman of the committee that drew the new legislative maps, said the divided districts were necessary under the Voting Rights Act.
“I firmly believe that we have no choice,” said Devlin.
South Dakota already has special sub-districts aimed at giving American Indians a better chance of being more represented in the state legislature. One of them includes the entire Cheyenne River and part of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservations. Another includes the Rosebud Indian Reservation.
The new carving plan was necessary due to the population shifts indicated by the 2020 federal census and was drafted over several weeks earlier this year. Each district is expected to include approximately the same number of people, although small variations are allowed. The principle is called “one person, one vote” and aims to give each district similar voting power in the Legislative Assembly.
The new map retains 47 districts, rather than increasing or reducing the size of the legislature. Population displacements in North Dakota made it necessary to redraw the boundaries of most of the existing districts.
North Dakota’s population is estimated at a record 779,000, up nearly 16% over the past decade, but most of the state’s rural legislative districts have lost residents, according to data from the census.
Lawmakers added three new districts in and around the state’s largest city, Fargo, and Williston and Watford City, where the population has grown with the boom in oil development over the past decade. The new map eliminates a pair of districts in northeastern North Dakota and one in the southeastern part of the state.
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