Turtle Mountain, Spirit Lake Changes Denied
BISMARCK – The expected perusal through the magnifying glass got underway on opening day of the current legislative special session called by Governor Doug Burgum. While legislators will take up several issues, foremost is the approval of a new legislative alignment due to increased population in the state according to the 2020 census.
All legislative districts must contain approximately the same number of voters to ensure fair representation from border to border. A redistricting committee arrived at a new layout for the state’s districts which was formally presented to lawmakers Monday.
The Joint Redistricting Committee met in the Capitol late Monday and heard from those who were asking for changes to the redistricting plan. Some minor revisions were made, such as where a legislative boundary divided a small town or did not follow natural boundary lines like as a highway or waterway.
Spokesmen from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and the Spirit Lake Reservation addressed the committee, urging them to redraw legislative district boundaries so that Turtle Mountain and Spirit Lake would become one legislative district.
“We are not asking for a whole lot. All we are saying is to allow us to be one district, two tribes.” Spirit Lake Chairman Douglas Yankton, Sr.
Spirit Lake Chairman Douglas Yankton, Sr. asked committee members to consider the tribal request, saying, “We are not asking for a whole lot. All we are saying is to allow us to be one district, two tribes.”
Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Dis. 17, Grand Forks) responded that such a change to redistricting might be viewed as “packing with Native Americans.”
“Why not give them what they are asking for?” Rep. Marvin Nelson (D-Dis. 9, Rolette)
Rep. Marvin Nelson (D-Dis. 9, Rolette) responded, “Why not give them what they are asking for?”
District 9 is one of two districts which, as proposed, will be divided into two sub-districts. The other is District 4 which contains the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
Rep. Josh Boschee (D-Dis. 44, Fargo) House minority leader and a member of the redistricting committee, said that the committee sought input from tribal representatives before drawing boundaries.
“They wanted sub-districts and that’s what we put into the plan,” remarked Boschee.
“Please do not go down this road.” Rep. Terry Jones (R-Dis. 4, New Town)
Rep. Terry Jones (R-Dis. 4, New Town) stepped to the podium and asked the committee to reconsider sub-districts in District 4, telling legislators, “Please do not go down this road.”
Jones explained that his constituents were not asking for a change as a sovereign nation but as North Dakota citizens. The committee responded that any changes to sub-districts would have to be made on the House floor.
The proposed redistricting plan made it to the House floor Tuesday, where the issue of sub-districting passed 54-37 (see Full House Vote for complete tally by legislator). A later House vote approved the redistricting plan 73-18 (see Full House Vote for complete tally by legislator). The bill now moves on to the Senate for approval or modification. If senators make changes to the House version, the bill will be returned to the House for further consideration.