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North Dakota redistricting committee sets first meeting

June 29, 2021 GMT

The Republican-led committee that will draw the boundaries of North Dakota’s new legislative districts has scheduled its first meeting later this summer at the state Capitol.

The Aug. 26 meeting will be followed by at least six others statewide to gather input on a new legislative map that will influence the political balance of power for the next decade.

Finley GOP Rep. Bill Devlin, chairman of the 16-member committee, said Tuesday that public input will be part of the committee’s work sessions. The meetings also will be livestreamed, which had not happened previously.

Legislative redistricting happens every 10 years after a federal census. It aims to ensure each lawmaker represents about the same number of people.

Devlin said lawmakers are still awaiting final federal census numbers, which are expected to be released in mid-August.

Population is power in the Legislature because each legislative district must represent roughly the same number of people. When North Dakota’s new legislative map is drawn later this year, Fargo and Bismarck will have more power in the Legislature, while North Dakota’s rural areas will have less.

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When the Legislature completed its last redistricting plan a decade ago, district populations averaged about 14,500 people. The new plan will likely add about 2,000 more people to that, with preliminary census estimates.

North Dakota’s population is estimated at a record 779, 000, up 106,000 people from a decade ago, said Kevin Iverson, manager of the census office at the state Commerce Department.

More than 90% of the growth has occurred in the state’s 13 biggest cities, Iverson said. Of the state’s 357 cities, 223 have lost population in the past decade,

North Dakota currently has 47 legislative districts, and each is represented by two House members and a senator. The Legislature has 47 senators and 94 House members. Republicans have 80 House seats to Democrats’ 14, and a 40-7 edge in the Senate.

The redistricting committee, picked earlier this month by legislative leaders, consists of 14 Republicans and only two Democrats.

Democrats hold about 14% of legislative seats, so proportionately, the redistricting committee is in-line with the Legislature’s makeup.

The Legislature would finish the redistricting job during a special or reconvened session this fall. The full Legislature has to approve the plan, and the governor must sign off on it.

Any new districts would be reflected in the June 2022 primary.