North Dakota's Redistricting News

 


 Bismarck Tribune: "Fewer Districts Is The Right Way." December 19, 2001
 Bismarck Tribune: "Important Enough to do Right." December 15, 2001
 Bismarck Tribune: "Democrats Pondering Petitions As Next Step." December 7, 2001
 The Forum: "North Dakota Remap Referral Is A Bad Idea." December 4, 2001
 The Forum: "N.D. Legislative Districts Set, But Not Without Problems." December 1, 2001
 The Forum: "Senate Approves 47-District Plan With 31-16 Vote." November 30, 2001
 The Forum: "Legislative Panel Rejects 51 Districts." November 29, 2001
 Bismarck Tribune: "Partisanship Leaves Redistricting Turkey." November 29, 2001
 The Forum: "House Democrats jittery." November 28, 2001
 The Forum: "N.D. Legislators Tackle Tough Redistricting Question." November 27, 2001
 Forum: "Capitol Notebook: Legislators Must Keep Process Moving." November 27, 2001
 The Forum: "Redistricting Only One Part of N.D. Special Session." November 26, 2001
 The Forum : "Remapping Plan to Change." November 25, 2001
 Forum: "Special Redistricting Session Set." November 8, 2001
 Forum: "Council Rubber Stamps Redistricting Plan." November 7, 2001
 Forum: "Redistricting Leader Finally OKs Debate on GOP Plan." November 6, 2001
 Forum: "Other Views: Republican Remap Plan Is a Turkey." October 21, 2001
 Bismarck Tribune: "Parties Ready to Fight Over Redistricting." November 1, 2001
 Bismarck Tribune: "Divvying Up People, State Can Create a Nasty Mess." October 31, 2001
 Forum: "Remapping Plan Sticks Fischer in New Zone." October 22, 2001
 Bismarck Tribune : "Legislators Pledge to Break Ranks Over Redistricting." October 19, 2001
 Forum: "Fargo Plan Includes New District." October 18, 2001
 Forum: "N.D. Redistricting Plan Calls for Cutting 2 Districts." October 17, 2001
 Forum: "Redistricting Creates GOP Rift." October 14, 2001
 Forum : "N.D. Legislators Trim Redistricting Plan List." October 5, 2001
 
 
Bismarck Tribune
Fewer Districts Is The Right Way
By Joel Heitkamp
December 19, 2001

A few key facts are being overlooked in all the noise surrounding the special session and the redistricting of North Dakota's legislative seats.

It was a group of us Democrats who first raised the idea of reducing the number of districts. Why? Because it's the right thing to do. We've asked school districts and teachers and judges to consolidate, as our population fails to grow. The Legislature should be put to the same test, and we certainly should hold ourselves to the same standards.

In fact, even with the reduction from 49 districts to 47, North Dakota still has the lowest ratio of constituents to lawmakers in the country. We pride ourselves on saying we have a lean, efficient government in North Dakota. The truth is, we really may have missed an opportunity to make even more reductions to achieve that goal.

I know that some of my colleagues in the Legislature are concerned that fewer districts will mean less representation for rural parts of our state. I simply don't think that holds up. Districts are based on population, so representation is proportional.

Of course, rural districts are much larger geographically, but with today's instant communications, cell phones, computers and e-mail, no legislator is isolated, whether a district covers a few square blocks or hundreds of miles.

The real choice was not urban versus rural. The real choice was more districts in both the cities and rural areas or fewer districts. Fewer districts is the right choice.

Unfortunately, the process was completely partisan. Ridiculous lines were drawn to pit Democratic legislators against each other in three districts, including my own, while protecting Republicans. The GOP didn't bother to hide the fact. They openly crowed about it.

It wasn't the first time in the history of the state and nation that partisan lines have been drawn to benefit one party at the expense of the other. It won't be the last. The key for those who care about North Dakota and the future of the state is to make the right decisions, for the right reasons. That's what I tried to do in this case.

Some of us Democrats tried to reduce the size of government for the right reasons. The GOP majority turned it into a partisan issue. I know which record I'd rather defend to voters.

The writer is assistant minority leader of the North Dakota Senate.

 
Bismarck Tribune
Important Enough to do Right
By Herbert J. Wilson
December 15, 2001

The public must not grow weary of hearing about the reapportionment battle, nor must the taxpayer complain about this expense of their government going about its business. Proper one-man, one-vote representation is vital to our democracy. Also, the party system is vital. There must be debate and careful consideration of every move.

In general, legislators are good people, and those in the laborious redistricting process have worked long and hard, with the aid of the latest computerized figures and mappings. But that does not mean they have come up with an equitable redrawing of the districts, or that the state's minorities -- poor people, rural people, laborers and Native Americans -- will have ready access to their government.

The trouble with the late redistricting committee is that they were of a pre-Sept. 11 mindset. Government -- even state government -- has of necessity taken on a much more important role since Sept. 11.

The Grand Forks Herald editorial reprinted in the Dec. 10 Tribune says that the remapping "fiasco" was due to "inexperienced leadership." How so? The men and women on the committee had ready access to technical help of all kinds.

The problem was that they were working for the party instead of for the voter. They had experienced "coaching." They boasted that they had hit the minority "right between the eyes."

The solution: independent technical help. Form a special commission. Go to our university political-science departments. Get the youth involved. Enlist some of the giants of the past who are in semiretirement.

Construct a 40-district map drawn along present county, city and township lines.

Make the 80 members of the House more directly responsible to the people by staging their elections every two years. The 40 members of the Senate can be more sedate and bring stability to government by being elected every four to six years. Each district may be divided into subdistricts somehow constructed to give minorities a chance to have a say in their governing. And cities must be reminded that North Dakota's economy is still primarily agriculturally based.

I am going to stump for this change if I have to go door to door on the worst days of North Dakota's January winter!

The writer has been a Democratic candidate for the Legislature.

 
 
Bismarck Tribune
Democrats Pondering Petitions As Next Step
By Frederic Smith
December 7, 2001

State Democrats are considering either an initiated measure or a referendum to undo the legislative redistricting plan passed last month by the North Dakota Legislature.

They will make up their minds within two or three weeks, Democratic-NFL Chairman Tom Dickson said Thursday. The possibilities include doing nothing.

Dickson said his office has been getting lots of calls from people "who want to improve on this monstrosity," the Republican-backed plan.

Outgunned Democrats claim Republicans tortured traditional electoral geography for the purpose of gerrymandering three Democratic senators out of office. Republicans respond that Democrats could have had a different plan, but preferred beating up Republicans in the media to working for an alternative that Republicans could also support.

Whatever, Dickson was taking a somewhat different tack Thursday, charging Republicans with "disenfranchising" thousands of voters who will have to go six years between legislative elections because the plan moves them from an odd-numbered district to an even-numbered one.

Under the state's even-odd system for legislative elections, odd-numbered districts last voted in 1998, and will vote again in 2002. But voters switched to an even-numbered district will now have to wait until 2004.

Dickson estimates their number at 26,000. At last month's special session, Republicans resisted Democratic calls for everybody to run again in 2002.

"Taxation without representation was wrong 250 years ago, and it's wrong today," Dickson said, referring to one of the ignition points of the American Revolution. A Democratic initiated measure might require those elections, along with redrawing the district lines set last month, but "the final measure has not been drafted," Dickson said.

He said an initiated measure is more attractive than a referendum, because a successful referendum would merely return redistricting to the Legislature "for the same people to do the same thing" over again.

Between Harold Schafer's funeral and a national conference of state legislators in Washington, D.C., Republican legislative leaders were hard to find for comment Thursday afternoon. But the possibilities being considered by Democrats certainly piqued interest at the secretary of state's office.

That office administers state elections. There, Elections Specialist Lee Ann Oliver and Deputy Secretary of State Cory Fong said either an initiated measure or a referendum could lead to an unprecedented confusion between next year's primary and general elections.

An initiated measure and a referendum both need 12,844 signatures to qualify for the first available statewide ballot, which would be the June 11 primary.

Signatures for a referendum would have to be collected by Feb. 28; for an initiated measure, by March 13.

With a referendum, validation of the signatures might or might not immediately suspend the new redistricting law; that question was up in the air Thursday. If the law were suspended, the primary would probably have to be conducted using the old legislative boundaries.

Then, even if the referendum lost in June, the Legislature would have to come back to somehow tweak the old district lines so they meet the population requirements of the 2000 census and still keep November's ballot looking somewhat like June's.

An initiated measure would at least leave the June primary undisturbed. However, if it won, the June primary results would be invalidated, and what that did to the November ballot would be worth a trip to the attorney general's office, Oliver and Fong said.

 
 
The Forum
North Dakota Remap Referral Is A Bad Idea
By Editorial Board
December 4, 2001

Referral of North Dakotaís new legislative map is a bad idea.

While the 47-district plan the Legislature came up with last week is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction: a smaller Legislature. It follows the mandates imposed on other sectors of government, including courts and school districts.

Furthermore, North Dakotans arenít terribly interested in upending the remap work of the Legislature. In fact, they were hardly aware of last weekís redistricting work in Bismarck. Interest in the new plan came mostly from lawmakers, political junkies and the media.

The plan could be better. The majority partyís unabashed gloating over smacking the minority party ìbetween the eyes,î as one lawmaker put it, was unseemly at best, callous and clumsy at worst.

But the job is done. North Dakotaís citizen Legislature will chug along just fine. A referral would cost a lot in dollars and nastiness, and accomplish little.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaperís Editorial Board.

 
 
The Forum
N.D. Legislative Districts Set, But Not Without Problems
By Janell Cole
December 1, 2001

The stage has been set for legislative elections in North Dakota for the next 10 years.

And possibly for lawsuits and constitutional amendments.

Gov. John Hoeven signed a state redistricting bill Friday afternoon, hours after the state House passed, by a wide margin, the 47-district plan.

The Senate approved the same redistricting plan Thursday, 31-16.

Hoeven said he was pleased with the plan, that the session lasted just five days, and that the Legislature reduced the number of lawmakers.

ìWe elect our legislators to make the tough decisions,î he said.

The Legislature, meeting in special session, was able to make short work of Fridayís business. The House passed the plan and both the Senate and House adjourned by 10:40 a.m.

ìI think the committee has produced a product we can all be proud of and we can all live with,î said Rep. Mike Timm, R-Minot, chairman of the Legislatureís Redistricting Committee, after he carried the bill to the floor. ìItís the best the committee can come up with after four months of deliberations.î

Despite still-simmering opposition among many of the Houseís 69 Republicans who wanted 51 districts, the plan passed by a wide margin largely on party lines, 66-29. Four Democrats crossed over to vote in favor of the 47-district plan and six Republicans voted against it. Three representatives were absent.

House Democrats had assured Republicans favoring a 51 district that they would help kill a 47-district plan. But Republican opposition withered as the week went on. House Majority Leader Wes Belter said he had met often with caucus members to solidify votes.

One who couldnít be swayed was Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Wolford.

ìNot one person (constituent) came up to me in the process and said ëI support less districts.í î Nelson said, before voting.

Rep. Jim Boehm, R-Mandan, who faces a run-off next year to keep his seat, complained: ìChange doesnít have to be bad, it just has to be right. This isnít right.î

Nonetheless, he voted yes.

An opportunity to vote for 51 districts never came in either chamber. The House or Senate would have had to vote down 47 districts before a 51-district map could have been hatched as a substitute.

Some opposition votes came from legislators who could very well have been casting the last vote of their legislative careers. The plan reduces the number of legislative districts from the current 49 districts to 47, leaving 14 incumbent Democrats and 11 Republicans to face off against each other in 2002. Six of them will not be back, either because they will be defeated in next yearís primary run-offs, or because they will chose to announce their resignation in time to avoid an election.

During the floor debate, House Democrats proposed three ideas for easing future redistricting talks. One calls for establishing an independent commission that would draw a plan that the Legislature would then enact or reject. That proposal was killed in committee and in the Senate on Thursday.

A second proposal calls for the Legislature to consider a constitutional amendment that sets the number of legislative districts in the state once and for all. The state constitution allows as few as 40 and as many as 54 districts. In 1975, courts decreed 50 districts after a 1971 plan was tied up in lawsuits for years. In 1981, legislators added three districts. In 1991, they reduced the number to 49. Now it is being reduced to 47.

The third suggestion would solve the problem of redistricting committees wrestling with the question of which legislators will have their four-year terms shortened by redistricting, said House Minority

Leader Merle Boucher. The answer, he said, is to have all legislators run for re-election right after redistricting.

After the vote, Belter and other Republicans seemed more willing to consider the constitutional amendment over the other two ideas.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of the Dakotas will continue to explore a lawsuit over the issue of establishing House sub-districts for reservation voters. The ACLU asked for sub-districts when the redistricting committee met but the proposal was never voted on.

The ACLU believes that two or three reservations in the state should have their own sub-districts to ensure that someone from their community can be elected to represent reservation residents.

ACLU spokesperson Jennifer Ring said she will visit with the stateís tribal representatives in the near future. If any reservation voter wants to make a case, she said, the national ACLU will evaluate the possibility of a lawsuit.

ìFort Berthold is a lock,î Ring said. ìThey have an extremely good case.î

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830.

 
 
The Forum
Senate Approves 47-District Plan With 31-16 Vote
By Janell Cole
November 30, 2001

With a vote of 31 to 16, Senate Republicans brushed off opponents and easily put North Dakotaís new legislative redistricting plan of 47 districts halfway home.

The House is expected to pass the bill today.

ìI am not pleased with this product in any way shape or form,î said Sen. Jerome Kelsh, D-Fullerton, during the floor debate. He is one of six Democratic senators who will be pitted against a party colleague in the next election. He has been put in the same district as Sen. Joel Heitkamp, D-Hankinson.

Other opponents still favored 51 districts. The state has 49 now. Under 47 districts, six legislators will lose their posts in the next election. If 51 had been approved, six new legislators would have been elected.

But Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, who was co-chairman of the redistricting committee, compared the Legislature to a brass band.

ìItís not the number you have in the band, itís the quality of people,î he said.

When Kelsh said the plan was ìnot pretty, Holmberg responded, ìthis is not a beauty pageant.î

Sen. Steve Tomac, D-St. Anthony, another Democrat who will be pitted in the next election against a party colleague, said it was a plan that protected incumbents and ìis just wrong.î

The plan also violates the guidelines the redistricting committee set for itself to preserve county lines and trade areas as cohesive districts.

ìWe can do better,î Tomac said. He and Senate Minority Leader Aaron Krauter, D-Regent, have been put in the same district.

ìWe probably should have had a consultant,î Krauter said, just as the Legislature had hired in 1981 and 1991. Instead, legislators used a computer program.

ìItís a bad plan,î he added.

Afterward, Holmberg said, ìSimply put, we reduced the size of government in keeping with what we have been saying others should do.î He and other supporters of fewer districts point out that the Legislature has been asking local school districts to close and consolidate schools and cut the number of judges in the state from 52 to 42.

The vote came in a Thursday evening session punctuated by wounded Democrats still trying to influence the plan that, as drawn, could well reduce their already small minority even further.

Kelsh offered a last-minute amendment that called for a bipartisan commission to do the next redistricting plan 10 years from now. Eleven other states do the same instead of having legislators draw up maps. Democrats said they were doing it in response to what they call a blatantly partisan plan. Kelsh argued that it needed to be passed this year, because by the 2003 or 2005 Legislatures, ìeverybodyís going to forgetî the struggle to redistrict this year. The amendment was defeated, 32-15.

Republicans repeatedly have countered Democratic criticism this year by saying that 10 years ago, when the Democrats controlled the Senate, it was several Republican senators who were paired to run against each other. Furthermore, in the House, more Republicans are crowded into districts for run-offs than Democrats.

Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, argued that the plan needed House subdistricts for large rural districts that contain more than 3,000 square miles. He did not offer a floor amendment, but the Redistricting Committee had voted the same idea down earlier in the process.

When the House votes to approve the plan today, that will end a five-day special session. If the House does not pass the bill, it goes back to committee.

But die-hard supporters of a 51-district plan admitted Thursday that there was no chance that they could upend the process at this late stage.

House Minority Leader Merle Boucher, D-Rolette, said Republican support for a 51-district plan, once estimated at 30 to 40 of the 69 GOP House members has evaporated. Boucher said he could keep tabs on the other party because an endless stream of House Republicans came into his office to see if Boucher could still deliver all of his 29 votes for a 51 plan. Boucher said his caucus held firm while the Republican base withered.

Barring any unexpected developments today, the plan for 47 would be signed by the governor in a matter of days and go into effect for the 2002 election cycle. Political parties will reorganize over the winter into their new district configurations.

The process started in July, when the 15-member committee of House and Senate members began meeting. It was not until Oct. 15 that they agreed to have 47 districts.

With two House members and one senator per district, the total number of legislators will be 141 over the next 10 years, compared to the current 147.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830.

 
 
The Forum
Legislative Panel Rejects 51 Districts
By Janell Cole
November 29, 2001

The Legislative Redistricting Committee left the best for last Wednesday ñ the question of reviving 51 legislative districts.

Then, in an evening nail-biter, the committee split its vote 8-7 and barely defeated the motion supporting 51 districts. The vote crossed party and rural-urban lines.

The surviving plan for 47 districts is expected to come to a vote in the Senate this afternoon.

ìI think we have passed one milestone,î said committee co-chairman Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, quipping ñ ìThe sausage has been made.î

Votes by the full Senate and House are the next milestones. Holmberg has favored 47 districts for months.

But many North Dakota lawmakers have pushed all year for 51 legislative districts, up two from the stateís current 49. The committee decided in October on 47, which is why the redistricting bill is being considered in this weekís special session.

Holmberg and others expect a floor amendment for 51 districts to be introduced in the Senate today, but donít think it will pass.

Rep. Ole Aarsvold, D-Blanchard, made the motion in committee to amend the billís 47 districts to 51. His motion had been on hold since Tuesday morning, while the committee first hashes out dozens of small and not-so-small changes to the 47-district map. Some of the so-called tweaks moved as few as five votes.

Aarsvold said his constituents and all public comment have shown support for more districts, not fewer. Fewer districts will dilute rural representation, say fans of a 51-district plan.

Furthermore, ìWeíve never had a vote up or down on a 51 plan,î Aarsvold said just before Wednesdayís decision.

Among the committee members who originally wanted 51 districts, but voted for 47 on Wednesday, was Sen. Layton Freborg, R-Underwood.

Freborg told Aarsvold that he and others had tried to come up with a majority of committee members in favor of 51 much earlier in the process and failed.

Others who supported 47 districts in October voted for 51 this time. They included Rep. Bill Devlin, R-Finley, whose 47-district map is the basis for the bill that survives, Sens. Randy Christmann, R-Hazen, and Bill Bowman, R-Bowman.

Voting for 51 on Wednesday were Devlin, Christmann, Bowman, Aarsvold, Rep. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo; Rep. Pam Gulleson, D-Rutland, and Rep. Lyle Hanson, D-Jamestown.

Voting against were Freborg, Holmberg, Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo; committee co-chairman Rep. Mike Timm, R-Minot; Rep. Glen Froseth, R-Kenmare; Rep. David Monson, R-Osnabrock; Sen. Steve Tomac, D-St. Anthony, and Sen. Ed Kringstad, R-Bismarck.

In other action Wednesday, the committees amendments to the 47-district plan included more changes around Fargo and West Fargo.

The southern boundary of the new south Fargo District 27 (which was labeled District 12 until Tuesday) was shifted again, moving further north than the most recently approved map. That puts some people south of Fargo and West Fargo back into rural Cass Countyís District 22.

And northeast West Fargo, which was to be moved into Fargoís District 21, now will be tacked onto District 22.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830

 
 
Bismarck Tribune
Partisanship Leaves Redistricting Turkey
By Aaron Krauter
November 29, 2001

There is a travesty taking place at the state Capitol, in Bismarck, and voters will be the loser.

Lawmakers are reapportioning the state Legislature to reflect population changes of the past decade. Guidelines were established that would have respected current legislative district boundaries, maintained county lines and worked with geographical boundaries and existing trade areas. But those guidelines were blatantly ignored when it came to six senatorial districts.

The Republican majority, in an outrageous display of partisanship, drew new lines to put six Democratic senators into three new districts. The effect is to eliminate three Democratic senators. Please note that gerrymandering done by Republicans will not put one existing Republican senator into a contest against another Republican incumbent. Simply put, they have put partisan politics above voter interests.

The plan currently being discussed would reduce the number of legislative districts from 49 to 47. By cutting the size of government, nine Republicans and seven Democrats will end up in contested House races. That shows compromise can be reached. But, in the Senate, Republicans chose to cut up 24 of the state's 53 counties and pit Democrats against Democrats. That's politics at its worst.

I, along with many other people, will never forget where we were on Sept. 11 and how our lives were changed forever. Every day since, I am even more proud of being an American and living in this great country. The spirit of this great country has risen to a level never seen since the 1940s, because we are all in this war on terrorism together.

That spirit of cooperation started at the top in this country, and I thank President Bush and our U.S. Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan and Rep. Earl Pomeroy for working together in a strong bipartisan fashion during these challenging times. They make us proud! I also thank the governor of this great state for his efforts to ensure our security and encourage us to continue our lives.

But the people of North Dakota need to know that the spirit of coming together and cooperation has taken a sharp partisan turn when it comes to redrawing legislative district lines in North Dakota. If you don't believe me, take a look at the new map Republican senators have come up with.

There is a boil in Benson County that leaves one to wonder if there is an illness or a case of partisan hives. In southeastern North Dakota, they have pulled together counties in a stair-step manner, making sure no Republican senators will slip and fall.

Traill County has developed a bad case of post-voter drip. What once was a cohesive legislative district has been dribbled across four counties to ensure two incumbent Democratic senators are forced to run against one another. In the far west, one legislative district that was made up of five counties will now be made up of six. You won't know your state senator, and the only place you will be able to see him is in Bismarck.

The final reapportionment package will be approved at a special session at the end of November. We all will be eating turkey at Thanksgiving. But, unless common sense prevails over Republican partisanship, we will be forced to live with this political turkey for the next 10 years.

Aaron Krauter, D-Regent, is minority leader of the North Dakota Senate.

 
 
The Forum
House Democrats jittery
By Janell Cole
November 28, 2001

BISMARCK, N.D. ñ North Dakotaís House Democrats asked themselves Tuesday what the future of the party holds if the Democratic legislators canít agree on a 51-district redistricting plan.

In the caucus, House Democrats displayed their displeasure that Senate Democrats publicly committed to 45 districts or 47 districts, believing that led to a Republican plan that will have six Democrat senators vying for three Senate seats. Several House Democrats are also adversely affected and may have to run against their party colleagues in the next election.

ìWe canít turn against each other,î said Rep. April Fairfield, D-Eldridge during a noon caucus. ìIf we turn against each other, where do we go from there?î

On Tuesday, the second day of the special redistricting session, Rep. Ole Aarsvold, D-Blanchard, put a motion before the Legislative Redistricting Committee for a 51-district plan. The motion did not come to a vote Tuesday, but may today. The Republican-led committee instead made various small changes to a bill that calls for 47 districts.

The state is currently divided into 49 districts. The 47-district plan was written by Republicans. Many legislators of both parties want 51 districts.

House Minority Leader Merle Boucher, D-Rolette, said after the meeting that ìitís no secret a majority of the caucus favors 51.î

Some House members were nervous Tuesday about the recriminations and any appearance of in-fighting.

Rep. Lyle Hanson, D-Jamestown, who always supported 51 districts, warned of avoiding a brawl, saying peace was important ìif weíre going to save the party, whatís left of it.î

Democrats are outnumbered by a 2-1 margin in both houses of the Legislature and have lost several formerly Democrat-held statewide offices in recent elections.

Rep. Pam Gulleson, D-Rutland, said the Senate leadership, Minority Leader Aaron Krauter, D-Regent, and Assistant Minority Leader Joel Heitkamp, supported reducing the size of the Legislature because they believed in it, not as a political strategy. Krauter, Heitkamp and Sen. Steve Tomac, D-St. Anthony, are among the six Democratic senators who could lose their seats next year. Tomac and Krauter are being put in the same district, and Heitkamp is being put with Sen. Jerome Kelsh, D-Fullerton.

Tomac serves on the redistricting committee and sought a 45-district plan.

Heitkamp agreed later that he has upset some Democrats but isnít willing to renege on a philosophy he believes in just because itís proved to be unpopular.

ìJust because I took a position, I donít believe I have to do something I donít believe in to appease people. If I donít believe in 51, I shouldnít have to support it,î he said. He also said the idea to support a 45-district or 47-district plan came out of the partyís state executive committee.

He and Gulleson said Democrats have always allowed diverse views within the party and the legislative caucuses.

Also on Tuesday, the redistricting committee discussed more changes in the district maps for Fargo. The bill calls for the Oak Grove neighborhood to move from District 21 to District 44, but the committee may move it back to District 21.

The committee may also undo a part of the Fargo-West Fargo plan that had called for extending Fargoís District 21 boundary west into a large section of northeast West Fargo. Land west of Interstate 29 will now be restored to West Fargoís District 13. Likewise, where the plan had called for District 13 to extend south to 52nd Avenue, the boundary will be moved up to 32nd Avenue, and the space in between will revert to rural Cass Countyís District 22.

The committee approved shuffling district numbers. The proposed new district for south Fargo, which had been numbred 12, will instead be District 27. The existing District 27, which includes Sargent County and parts of Dickey, Ransom and Richland counties in the southeast was changed to District 26 and Jamestownís District 26 will be renumbered as District 12. The shuffling allows the senator and House members elected in the new Fargo district to run for four-year terms.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830.

 
 
The Forum
N.D. Legislators Tackle Tough Redistricting Question
By Janell Cole
November 27, 2001

BISMARCK, N.D. ñ Cutting the size of the North Dakota Legislature hurts rural areas and is not worth the taxes saved.

Thatís what legislators were told Monday by those testifying on the first day of the stateís special redistricting session.

Not one of the 10 non-legislators who testified Monday on the stateís proposal to trim the number legislative districts to 47 supported it.

Most of them, including county commissioners and farm groups, asked the North Dakota Legislatureís special session to pass a plan with 51 districts, to assure rural areas better representation.

ìThis is the wrong place to cut government. And we have to live with this for 10 years,î said Steele County Commissioner Randy Richards of Hope.

The state currently has 49 districts. Between 1981 and 1991, it had 53.

Richards and Steele County Commissioner Jane Amundson of Sharon, said they wanted Steele County to remain in a district with Griggs County because the counties work together in an economic development empowerment zone.

The 47-district plan the Legislature is considering combines Steele with Traill County and half of Barnes County.

Eric Aasmundstad, president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, said the group voted at its recent annual meeting to support 51 districts.

He said the Farm Bureau usually favors downsizing government, but ìthis is a case of downsizing citizen representation.î

The committee will continue to take testimony today. Leaders expect the session to last five days, or if necessary, into Saturday.

Many legislators also support 51 districts, but senators say a 47-district plan will pass the Senate. While the House is considered a tougher sell, House Majority Leader Wes Belter, D-Leonard, doesnít think a 51-district plan can get enough votes in the House, either.

The redistricting session is the result of population shifts shown in the 2000 census.

Earlier Monday, the Senate made several changes to a map the Redistricting Committee approved in October and November.

It restores Republican Fargo Sen. Tom Fischerís seat in District 46. The plan approved earlier this month put his home on 64th Avenue South into a brand new district.

The changes approved Monday by the Senate also put all of rural Cass County into District 22.

The past 10 years, the northern townships of Cass were combined with Traill County and part of Grand Forks County into District 20.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830.

Forum
Capitol Notebook: Legislators Must Keep Process Moving
By Janell Cole
November 27, 2001

The Legislative Council staff prides itself on its ìweíll do anything for anybodyî tradition of writing bills and amendments for legislators. But that went by the wayside Monday morning in the opening minutes of the special redistricting session.

ìIf something isnít done differently, this session is going to go on forever,î said Council Director John Olsrud. ìWe canít let one legislator or group of legislators hold up the whole plan.î He made the announcement to both chambers, saying the limited staff available and the complexity of rewriting a redistricting bill made it necessary for the announcement, though ìwe are very uncomfortableî doing so.

He asked that any proposed changes to the redistricting bill be funneled through the joint House-Senate Redistricting Committee.

The warning was particularly pertinent for the Senate, where rules allow amendments be proposed and adopted during floor sessions. House members amend only in committee.

The Forum
Redistricting Only One Part of N.D. Special Session
By Janell Cole
November 26, 2001

BISMARCK, N.D. ñ When legislators gavel in today to draw new district lines, they have several other things on their to-do list, some procedural, others substantive.

First, it could take all morning to organize the session.

Legislative Council Director John Olsrud said it likely will be at least late this morning or after lunch before the redistricting committee meets and starts its business, which includes taking testimony.

While that committee handles the primary job of the session, other lawmakers will be working on bills to suspend the banking privacy law passed in March and fix a sex offender registration law.

And the Senate will hold confirmation hearings for Gov. John Hoevenís appointees: Commissioner of Financial Institutions Tim Karsky, Securities Commissioner Karen Tyler, Board of Higher Education member Bruce Christianson and Gaming Commissioner Lois Altenburg. All were appointed after the regular legislative session adjourned in April. Here is how the session should start:

At the 9 a.m. start-up, each house will take roll call. The newest legislator in the state, Sen. Gary Lee, R-Casselton, will be sworn in. He was appointed in August to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Sen. Gary Nelson. Then, each house appoints a rules committee. Next, the committee on committees meets. It will formalize the joint redistricting committeeís appointment for the session. The Legislatureís employment committee from last spring will meet to put its stamp on hiring of staff for the special session.

And a technical corrections committee will be appointed to hear all other bills beyond the redistricting bill.

After all that, said Legislative Council Director John Olsrud, it likely will be at least late this morning or after lunch before the redistricting committee meets and starts its mapping business, which includes taking testimony.

Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, says he is introducing the bill to suspend banking privacy law that legislators passed in March. The governor suggested the suspension after a referral drive succeeded in having the law put to the voters next June. The law took effect in July, despite the referral petitions, because it had an emergency clause. Hoeven suggested that, with the lawís future questionable, its effectiveness should be suspended until after the June vote. Kasper opposed the bill that passed in March.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem wants the stateís sex offender registration law to get a minor fix so that state law matches a federal mandate. Without the fix, the state could lose federal funds.

Another bill that has been discussed ñ to enable the state to take part in a proposed national sales tax holiday ñ is iffy. Congress had not enacted such a holiday, though it still might.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830.

The Forum
Remapping Plan to Change
By Janell Cole
November 25, 2001

BISMARCK, N.D. ñ When North Dakota legislators convene Monday in special redistricting session, they wonít know how long it will take or if continued squabbles about the number of districts will cause disunity.

But one thing is certain. The 47-district map approved by legislative leaders Nov. 5-6 will not survive the first day. Legislators have spent the past 2‡ weeks drawing up changes that will likely be adopted soon after Mondayís opening gavel. The session is expected to take a week.

ìYouíll see a big proposal with more attention paid to county lines,î said Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, a member of the Legislative Redistricting Committee.

Democrats on and off the redistricting committee complained after the plan was drawn that it needlessly ignored county lines, and Republicans say thatís one reason the plan is getting an overhaul on day one.

Republicans have a majority on the committee and in both houses of the Legislature.

ìThey answer (Sen. Steve) Tomacís question about trying to stay in county lines,î said Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck. Tomac is a Democrat.

ìThere are several areas where county lines are crossed where they donít have to be,î said Rep. Bill Devlin, R-Finley, a member of the committee and chief Republican architect of the proposal adopted Nov. 6. He, too, acknowledged a reworked map will appear when the session starts Monday.

Stenehjem says this is how it will work ñ the redistricting committee will start out by adopting a package of amendments to the Nov. 6 plan, send the new version of the bill floor of the Senate for passage and then bring it back to committee. That way, other suggested changes would be to the new engrossed bill, not the Nov. 6 bill.

Here are some of the changes coming Monday:

The shape of District 20 will be squared off to be less bizarre looking than on the Nov. 6 map. Without the change, it sprawls around the northwest corner of Cass County to take in Traill and parts of Steele and Barnes counties, has a contorted shape and 14 sides.

Cass County will be squared-off more than it is on the Nov. 6 map, which has a dog-leg created to keep District 22 Republican Chairwoman Cleo Thompson of Page in the district.

District or precinct boundaries will be changed around Bismarck and Minot after they brought protests from county auditors who have to administer elections.

Fargoís Districts 46 and 41 will be reconfigured to keep Sen. Tom Fischer, R-Fargo, in the confines of District 46, which he currently represents. The Nov. 6 plan put his residence inside the brand-new District 12 and would have forced him to run for election in 2002. The new District 12 is also being reconfigured.

ìDo I think the plan passed on the 5th is the one youíre going to see in law? No,î Fischer said. ìThere were some mistakes made and one of them was me.î Fischer is not on the redistricting committee.

He said another fix is for a mobile home park near Playmakers in Fargo. It was sliced up in the earlier plan and will be fixed this week to unite those parts of the park. And a neighborhood east of South University Drive and between 17th Avenue South and Interstate 94 will go back to District 46. The Nov. 6 plan had put it in District 11.

ìI think weíll come to Bismarck with a plan for Cass County that will make everybody happy Ö so everyone comes out of this as unscathed as possible,î Fischer said.

He described the Cass County map changes as bipartisan, with Democrats and Republicans in Fargo talking among themselves the past week to work out the amendments.

Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, acknowledged those discussions have taken place since Nov. 6, but said they donít necessarily make both parties happy.

ìI think the dramatic change in the political makeup of District 11, is the movement of the Agassiz (Middle School) precinct from 11 to (District) 21,î said Mathern, who represents District 11 and was on the redistricting committee. It takes a solid Democrat area and moves it from a traditionally Democratic district into a swing district.

He called it the most dramatic change in Cass County.

Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir said heís still concerned about the proposed shape of District 21, which is being extended out to northeast West Fargo. Heís not sure whether to create a new voting precinct and polling place in the West Fargo section for 200 people (and even fewer voters) or make those voters drive to a Fargo polling place. Heíll also have to find polling places for the new District 12 in an eastern part of West Fargo.

ìIím not concerned with where legislators live. Thatís their concern,î he said. ìThe only thing that concerns me is will I be able to make a decent precinct.î

With some boundaries seemingly due for quick repair and others left for this weekís session, that presents other big question ñ will rural legislators who want 51 districts be a force that makes any difference?

The state currently has 49 districts, which makes 147 legislators ñ one senator and two House members from each. The proposal on the table is for 47 districts or 141 legislators. Many legislators, mostly rural, want 51 districts so that their current districts donít grow to gargantuan size.

Theyíre out looking for votes for their plan. Fischer said he was taking phone calls last week from legislators asking him to support their bid for 51 districts.

Sen. Aaron Krauter, D-Regent, the Senate minority leader, predicts the Senate will pass a 47-district map, but ìthe House will probably defeat the 47 plan.î

Carlson is convinced 47 districts will go through both houses.

So is veteran lawmaker Rep. Bill Kretschmar, R-Venturia. He favors 51 but says that faction is already at a disadvantage because no bill is in the works. It takes days for the Legislative Council staff to write a redistricting bill because it contains several pages of land descriptions.

ìThereís got to be a bill with the details in it and the Legislative Council says they only drew up a 47,î Kretschmar said. Nor has he heard of a strong 51-district caucus.

Still, he added, ìI suppose itís not impossible.î

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830

Forum
Special Redistricting Session Set
By Janell Cole
November 8, 2001

Gov. John Hoeven made it official Wednesday morning, signing an executive order calling the Legislature into session for redistricting.

He did so at the request of legislative leadership, which approved a redistricting bill Tuesday at a Legislative Council meeting.

The session will begin at 9 a.m. Nov. 26.

Legislators could have called themselves into session but they would be limited to three days because their regular session lasted 77 days this year. Theyíre limited to 80 days each biennium. A redistricting session is expected to take five days.

Hoeven said legislators assured him they will keep it short and focused. He had told leaders for months that he would call the session if he was assured of three things ñ they had a redistricting plan set out when they convened, that they would limit the length of the session and that they would consider suspending the financial privacy law until next yearís primary election. It had taken effect in March, but has since been referred to the voters.

But the governor has no legal control over the length and breadth of a special session once they get to Bismarck. No law or constitutional article prevents them from introducing any number of bills or staying in session longer.

Already, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has said he may ask legislators to fix a law governing sex offender registration. The North Dakota law as currently written differs enough from a federal law that the state risks losing some federal funds unless it matches its statute to the federal law.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830

Forum
Council Rubber Stamps Redistricting Plan
By Janell Cole
November 7, 2001

The Legislative Council put its stamp on a redistricting bill Tuesday, the last formal act before a special session is called, probably Nov. 26.

Itís the same 47-district plan the Legislatureís Redistricting Committee approved Monday.

Even though the special session is weeks away, there are already veiled threats of court challenges to the proposed new legislative district map. Democrats, the American Civil Liberties Union or North Dakota American Indian tribes have all complained about parts of the plan.

Rep. Wes Belter, R-Leonard, chairman of the 17-member Legislative Council, said after the meeting that the governor will call the session, which gives legislators an unlimited amount of time to pass the redistricting plan into law.

ìI recommended to him that he wait until this meeting was over,î Belter said. ìThere was no need to call it until the Legislative Council met. He needs to know whether weíre ready to go to work before he calls the special session.î

He said he still expects the session to last five days.

Gov. John Hoevenís office said he will announce this morning that he is calling the special session.

Democrats were disappointed. They oppose the redistricting plan as proposed, mostly because it pits six Democratic senators against each other in the 2002 elections. They were hoping the governor would decline to make the call, leaving the Legislature to call itself back in to redistrict. That would have necessitated any redistricting bill pass both houses by two-third vote in order to take effect immediately. Republicans are one vote shy of a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

ìItís pretty obvious theyíve made a deal with the governor,î said Senate Minority Leader Aaron Krauter, D-Regent. ìThey donít need a two-thirds majority now, just a simple majority.î

He said the plan could give some incumbent legislators a six-year term before voters in the new districts have their next say.

ìThereís going to be some big challenges out there on disenfranchised voters. Thatís court material there,î Krauter said.

Jennifer Ring of the ACLU has asked repeatedly for House sub-districts for all or some of Indian reservations in the state, which would virtually guarantee more Indians in the Legislature. There is one now. ìWeíll be back,î she said this week, when the idea did not hatch at either the Redistricting Committeeís final meeting Monday or at the Legislative Council meeting Tuesday.

She will push for the idea during the special session, then decide what to do depending on the result.

The Legislative Redistricting Committeeís vote Monday to approve the bill passed on party lines, 10 Republicans to five Democrats. The councilís vote to pass the bill on to the special session of the full Legislature was 14-3. The ìnoî votes were Krauter, Sen. Tim Mathern, Fargo, and Sen. Larry Robinson, Valley City. They constitute the entire Democratic Senate membership on the council.

The Legislative Council is the governing body for the legislative branch of state government when the Legislature as a whole is not meeting.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830

Forum
Redistricting Leader Finally OKs Debate on GOP Plan
By Janell Cole
November 6, 2001

Legislators, party activists and county auditors blasted a 47-district legislative redistricting plan Monday at the Capitol, shortly after being told they would not be allowed to comment.

Some of the criticism of the Republican-drawn plan came from Republican legislators.

When Legislative Redistricting Chairman Mike Timm, R-Minot, opened the meeting, he vowed firmly that there would be no testimony taken, saying that wasnít what the meeting was for. This despite the published agenda that included a time for comments by interested persons.

ìTestimonyís over with. The next opportunity for testimony is during the special (legislative) session,î Timm said. The only purpose for the meeting was to review and approve the draft bill for the new 47-district map, he said.

The session is tentatively set to start Nov. 26.

ìMr. Chairman, I think thatís totally wrong,î said Sen. Steve Tomac, D-St. Anthony, a member of the committee. He and other Democrats on the panel said there has been no chance for anyone to comment on the 47-district plan the committee approved on Oct. 17.

Until then, there was nothing for the public to comment on, they said. Tomac is one of six Democratict senators who are pitted against each other under the plan.

ìThe concern I have is, literally, the district boundaries in Cass County were never offered until right before we voted (on the plan on Oct. 17),î said Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo.

Some angry county officials from Hettinger and Adams County in the southwest part of the state got up and left the meeting Monday, unaware that Timm would change his mind an hour later and start taking comments.

When he relented, some Republicans argued for a larger Legislature, not the smaller one being considered.

The state currently has 49 legislative districts. With one senator and two House members in each district, that is 147 legislators. The committeeís plan for 47 legislators means only 141 legislators and 51 districts means 153 legislators.

ìIím hopeful the Legislature will ultimately chose 51,î said Rep. Bill Kretschmar, R-Venturia, a veteran of 14 legislative sessions and who served on the redistricting committee 10 years ago.

ìIf people wanted less government we wouldnít still have 53 counties and over 1,000 organized townships,î he said.

Rep. Jim Boehm, R-Mandan,î said it was unfair to cut off public comment now.

ìUntil your last meeting, 51 (districts) was viable,î he said. He protested that Morton County, which has not lost population, has been split three ways.

He compared it to Thanksgiving turkey ñ ìall carved up.î

He said that if legislators and Gov. John Hoeven think they need to save costs in government, they should cut some state employees, noting the governorís budget added 154 new state employee positions.

A former GOP district chairwoman in Boehmís District 31, Theresa Tokach, also wondered why Morton County was carved up when it could have been kept intact, urging the Republican-dominated committee to preserve the seats of incumbent District 31 GOP legislators.

Burleigh County Auditor Kevin Glatt and Morton County Auditor Paul Trauger said they were horrified that the planís boundaries set some district lines at Bismarck and Mandan city limits.

City limits change constantly with development and usually are not easily identified by any landmark, he and Trauger argued.

A city limit used as a district boundary by a special session in 2001 could very well end up running through the middle of someoneís house when a new neighborhood is developed in future months or years, he said.

He, too, said this was really the first chance for anyone to comment on the plan.

ìUntil I saw something concrete, it was tough for me to comment.î

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830.

Forum
Other Views: Republican Remap Plan Is a Turkey
By Senator Aaron Krauter
October 21, 2001

There is a travesty taking place at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., and you the voter will be the loser. We are now in the process of reapportioning the state Legislature to reflect population changes of the past decade. Guidelines were established in this redistricting process that would have respected current legislative district boundaries, maintained the county lines, and worked with geographical boundaries and existing trade areas. But those guidelines were blatantly ignored when it came to six senatorial districts.

The Republican majority in an outrageous display of partisanship drew new lines to put six Democratic senators in three new districts. The effect is to eliminate three Democratic senators. Please note that gerrymandering done by Republicans will not put one existing Republican state senator in a contest race against another Republican incumbent. Simply put, they have put partisan politics above voter interests.

The plan currently being discussed would reduce the number of legislative districts from 49 to 47. By cutting the size of government nine Republican and seven Democrats will end up in contested House races. That shows compromise can be reached. But in the Senate, Republicans chose to cut up 24 of the states 53 counties and pit Democrats against Democrats. Thatís politics at its worst.

I, along with many people, will never forget where we were on Sept. 11 and how our lives have been changed forever. Every day since then I am even more proud of being an American and living in this great country. The spirit of this great country has risen to a high level never seen since the 1940s because we are all in this war on terrorism together. That spirit of cooperation has started at the top in this country and I thank President Bush and our U.S. Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan and Congressman Earl Pomeroy for working together in a strong bipartisan fashion during these challenging times. You make us proud! And also a thank you to the governor of this great state for his efforts to ensure our security and encourage us to continue our lives.

But the people of North Dakota need to know that spirit of coming together and cooperation has taken a sharp partisan turn when it comes to redrawing the legislative district lines in North Dakota. If you donít believe me take a look at the new map Republican senators have come up with.

There is a boil in Benson County which leaves one to wonder if there is an illness or a case of partisan hives. In southeastern North Dakota they have pulled together counties in a stair-step like manner making sure no Republican senators will slip and fall. Trail county has developed a bad case of post voter drip. What once was a cohesive legislative district has now been dribbled across four counties to ensure two democratic incumbent senators are forced to run against one another. In the far west one legislative district that was made up of five counties will be made up of six. You wonít know your state senator and the only place you will be able to see him is in Bismarck.

The final reapportionment package will be approved at a special session at the end of November. We all will be eating turkey at Thanksgiving. But unless common sense rules above Republican political partisanship we will be forced to live with this political turkey for the next ten years.

Krauter, Regent, N.D., is Democratic minority leader of the state Senate. He has served from District 35 since 1991.

Bismarck Tribune
Parties Ready to Fight Over Redistricting
By Frederic Smith
November 1, 2001

A lively time is promised Monday when the Legislature's interim Redistricting Committee meets to give final approval to a plan for rearranging the state's legislative districts to reflect population shifts found by the 2000 census.

The plan on the table infuriates Democrats because, in trimming the present 49 districts to 47, it places six of their 17 incumbent senators into three districts, from which only three senators can emerge.

Nor are these just any senators. They include Senate Minority Leader Aaron Krauter, D-Regent, and Assistant Minority Leader Joel Heitkamp, D-Hankinson, as well as veteran heavy hitters Steve Tomac, D-St. Anthony, and Jerry Kelsh, D-Fullerton.

Tomac says the majority Republicans tortured county lines to achieve a partisan result -- his Morton County, for one, is cut into four pieces, from the present two.

"They chopped up 23 of 53 counties," Tomac said. "To get these scenarios, you have to stretch the limits of gerrymandering. I say the majority has a greater duty to the state than protecting (their) incumbents when they draw these lines."

Republicans respond that many in their party favored a 51-district plan that would have done less violence to traditional boundaries and displaced very few incumbents. But the Democratic leadership, pushing a 45-district plan, preferred to beat up on Republicans in the media for "growing government," Republicans say, causing the 51-district plan to lose support within the GOP and practically forcing fewer -- and larger -- districts.

Fewer districts mean Democrats are bound to get hurt, says Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck.

Stenehjem likens it to two men, "you and Bill," going to the doctor and being told that one of them is going to have to lose a big toe. "But the doctor leaves it up to you, not Bill, to decide. Well, what do you expect to happen? You know it's not going to be you limping out of there."

Republicans outnumber Democrats 10 to 5 on the interim committee, reflecting the approximately 2-1 advantage enjoyed by Republicans in the House and Senate.

Monday is not the last stop for the 47-district plan, assuming that's what emerges. On Tuesday, the plan must be approved by the Legislative Council, on which Republicans have a 10-7 majority, and later this month by the full Legislature, which goes to work Nov. 26. Finally, it must get the signature of Gov. John Hoeven.

The 47-district version was approved by the interim panel Oct. 16 on a not-quite-party-line vote of 9-6. The journey there was interesting, to say the least.

Most Republicans and Democrats agree that a plan preserving 49 districts -- even redrawn districts -- could not be done.

That's because of the federal requirement that districts be roughly equal in population and the tradition at the Legislature that you don't cross the Missouri River with a district. (The exception is at the river-split Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, to keep tribal members there all in the same district.)

The combination of population loss south and west of the river over the last 10 years and the growth of eastern cities, particularly Fargo, would have forced a trans-river district at Bismarck, says Rep. Bill Devlin, R-Finley, the Republicans' main number-cruncher on the redistricting committee.

Devlin and two other committee Republicans, Sens. Layton Freborg, R-Underwood, and Randy Christmann, R-Hazen, favored 51 districts as more friendly to rural areas. So did two Democrats, Reps. Ole Aarsvold, D-Blanchard, and Lyle Hanson, D-Jamestown.

Devlin identifies two other Republicans on the panel, Rep. Mike Timm, R-Minot, and Sen. Ed Kringstad, R-Bismarck, who might have gone for 51 districts, leaving "51" adherents needing one vote from among the remaining three Democrats for an eight-vote majority. Of these, Assistant House Minority leader Pam Gulleson, D-Rutland, was thought to be the best bet, Devlin says.

The thing is, "51" never got to a vote.

On Oct. 16, Chairman Timm said four plans -- for 45, 47, 49 and 51 districts -- would be voted on in order, beginning with Tomac's "45," until one achieved a majority. Tomac's went down, 3-12, with Tomac, Gulleson and Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, voting for it.

The eyebrow-raiser was the next vote, for 47 districts, when Devlin and Christmann joined seven other Republicans to put that plan over the top. (Freborg, staying true to "51," voted no, along with panel Democrats.) Which meant there would be no vote on the 51 districts favored by Devlin and Christmann.

Democrats say this shows that, by that time, the idea was to punish Democrats for the leadership's opposition to 51 districts. "I think (Republicans) had gotten together and decided (they) would rather be criticized for being partisan than for growing government," Tomac said.

Devlin and Christmann say, rather, that Gulleson's vote for 45 districts had persuaded them that she wouldn't be there for 51 districts. Even if she had been, an 8-7 win for 51 districts would not have impressed the Legislative Council, whose membership is "more urban" than that of the interim panel, Devlin said.

The charges, and rejoinders, go back and forth.

One thing is certain: The present plan makes a hash of Morton County outside of Mandan. The western corner, including Glen Ullin and Hebron, gets thrown in with Stark County. East of Glen Ullin, everything north of Interstate 94 goes with Oliver and Mercer counties. East of Glen Ullin and south of I-94, the county is "as is," in District 31.

When you don't cross the river, "something has to give," and Morton County is the pressure point, Stenehjem says. Democrats reply that plenty of other counties are multiple-district, too, in the Republican plan, and this will bite taxpayers, who may have to pay for more election precincts and will certainly have to pay for more ballots.

In Morton County, Auditor Paul Trauger says that he "could end up adding six or eight (rural) precincts (to the present 11), trying to accommodate district lines," but will check with the attorney general's office to see what he is obligated to do.

Trauger is not looking forward to voters getting confused, which usually translates into anger, over where they are supposed to vote.

Lone Bismarck Democrat not worried

State Rep. Audrey Cleary, the lone Democrat among Bismarck's 12 legislators, says she doesn't feel picked on by the Republican redistricting plan, which assigns her some brand new territory: super-Republican Highland Acres.

"I can't believe they care that much about me," Cleary said. "But isn't that interesting?"

The plan folds Cleary's present District 49 into a new District 35, assigning some of her old territory north of Interstate 94 to rural District 8. The one thing that bothers her, she says, is that with the projected change her constituents up there will be six years between elections.

Under the state's even-odd system for legislative elections, they last voted on their lawmakers in 1998, and were due to vote again in 2002. As part of an even-numbered district, they will have to wait until 2004. A good reason, says Cleary, "for everybody to have to run again" following redistricting.

Cleary says she isn't intimidated by Highland Acres' Republican reputation -- "My district is pretty Republican as it is." The challenging thing for any redistricted legislator is getting acquainted with a lot of new voters of either party, she says.

Another Bismarck district goes adventuring under the GOP plan: the south side's District 32, which crosses Main Avenue for the first time in picking up some prime Republican territory in and around the Roosevelt Elementary School precinct.

Previously a Democratic stronghold, 32 kicked over the traces in 2000, booting three Democratic incumbents in favor of three Republicans. Would a person be justified in thinking the Roosevelt addition is to fortify 32 for Republicans into the future?

That's to be too suspicious, says Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck. Driving Bismarck changes is that three districts -- 47, old 49 and 30 -- all gained population and so "had to get rid of real estate." District 32, on the other hand, has lost about 1,000 people since 1990, and so had to grow in land area, Stenehjem said.

Burleigh County Auditor Kevin Glatt knows one thing: Some of the new boundaries will be the deuce to explain to voters. He has complained to Stenehjem of district lines that have deviated from through streets, a prime example being the stray dog that is the southern boundary of Cleary's projected District 35.

"In North Dakota, we try to make it simple and easy for people to vote," Glatt said. "That should include making sense of where they go to vote. Ugly gerrymanders make it more difficult."

Stenehjem has promised relief on that District 35 boundary.

Bismarck Tribune
Divvying Up People, State Can Create a Nasty Mess
By Tribune Community Editorial Board
October 31, 2001

The redistricting panel's decision to reduce the number of North Dakota legislative districts from 49 to 47 makes good sense. However, when it comes to drawing boundaries for the districts, the most recent proposal fails common-sense rules, especially in the west.

This rocky reapportionment experience suggests there's merit in having redistricting done by an independent third party or some other body .

Presently, the Legislature is made up of 49 districts. During the past decade, the lawmakers have preached the benefits of smaller government to school districts, cities and counties. Therefore, the Legislature is right to take it's own advice and reduce the number of districts to 47.

Good work.

Unfortunately, the task of mapping those 47 districts hasn't gone nearly as well. Rural Morton County and counties to the west have seen the worst of it.

In the last election, nearly all of rural Morton County was in a single legislative district -- sharing common geography and problems. The latest proposal has rural Morton County being part of three legislative districts, one stretching from the Missouri River to Mott in Hettinger County -- sharing uncommon geography and different problems.

Why would anyone want to do that?

The obvious answer is that it puts two strong Democrats -- Sen. Steve Tomac and Sen. Aaron Krauter -- in the same district, which would knock one of them out.

That's politics, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that. To the victors -- the Republican majority -- go the spoils. Except when drawing the line divides an area-such as Morton County has been divided in the present proposal.

The problem isn't just in western North Dakota. Proposed District 20, northwest of Fargo, has a very odd shape that could only be the result of political contortionism by the officeholder there, a Democrat.

Not good.

Politics isn't a dirty word, it's the essence of our governance. But perhaps it's asking too much to have lawmakers reapportion themselves. The public would be better served by some other party drawing the lines, one that didn't have as much self-interest at stake. The results of reapportionment are long lasting. Ten years is certainly too long to have to live with a bad legislative map.

In the meantime, let's hope some statesmanship will surface during the rapidly approaching special session, resulting in a sensible redrawing of the lines.

(Tribune Community Editorial Board members: Publisher Kevin Mowbray, Editor Dave Bundy, Comptroller Libby Simes, Managing Editor Ken Rogers, and reader members Carole Barrett, Karla Cox, Sam Dart, Gail H. Erickson and Lowell J. Ridgeway.)

Forum
Remapping Plan Sticks Fischer in New Zone
By Janell Cole and Don Davis
October 22, 2001

The redistricting plan passed by a North Dakota legislative committee last week would move Sen. Tom Fischer, R-Fargo, out of the district in which he was elected last fall, 46, and into a newly created district, which will be labeled District 12.

Legislators on the committee thought because Fischer is selling his house, it wouldnít matter.

Fischer said he has an offer on his house on 64th Avenue South, but it doesnít mean he plans to leave that immediate neighborhood. He owns other property on 64th on which he could build.

Heís not too concerned. He expects district lines to be redrawn at the special session in November.

Angry Democrats?

Until last week, we heard rumors of a North Dakota Republican Party ìimplosionî over disagreements on the number of legislative districts the state should have.

Now, with the redistricting map drawn, we hear itís the Democrats who have members furious with their leadership. In what appears to have been a bluff, the Dems publicly supported a downsized Legislature, and now itís their own who are being squeezed out in the process.

Are North Dakota Democrats entering a better era for their party?

Despite their drubbing in legislative redistricting and at the ballot box last year, party executive director Vern Thompson is upbeat. He says potential candidates for next year are coming forward and fund raising has been markedly successful.

He says recently elected party chairman Tom Dickson hasnít been out seeking publicity, but, rather, has been drumming up money behind the scenes.

Thatís one reason the partyís election year debt was paid off in record time, by early September, Thompson said.

Readers can reach Forum Capitol Correspondents Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830 and Don Davis at (651) 290-0707.

Bismarck Tribune
Legislators Pledge to Break Ranks Over Redistricting
By Lauren Donnovan
October 19, 2001

Keith Kempenich and David Drovdal might be Republicans, but neither will vote for their party's redistricting plan at a special session next month.

The five-county district they represent in western North Dakota is already as big as New Jersey.

Under the new plan, District 39 would start to rival some small foreign countries, like Costa Rica and Liberia, in size.

Kempenich, a representative from Bowman, said that's just too big. He won't support it. If he took off walking from his rural Bowman farm house on Monday, he'd get to the other end of his district for lunch on Wednesday.

That's if he didn't sleep.

Urban lawmakers, however, can walk around their entire districts in an afternoon. The other thing is, Kempenich wouldn't see another living soul for most of that walkabout through Bowman, Slope, Billings, Golden Valley and McKenzie counties.

There are about 11,500 people in his district, less than two per square mile. A decade ago, there were 13,000.

"It's a lot of miles," Kempenich said.

Under the proposed plan to cut back the number of political districts from 49 to 47, Kempenich's district would grow from an unwieldy 7,200 square miles to something like 9,000 square miles, pulling in all of Adams County.

Kempenich said he's not going to vote for fewer districts at a special redistricting session in November, even though it's a plan crafted by his party to downsize the legislative branch of state government.

"I'm not going to support less districts," he said.

Drovdal of Arnegard, who shares representation of the district, said he figured the district would have to get bigger because the number of people in it is getting smaller.

He said he'll only vote for the same or more districts.

Fewer districts won't be good for the west, he figures.

"It'll weaken the political hand of rural North Dakota," he said.

He said the district lost about 10 percent of its population in the 2000 census, the every-decade count that triggers reorganization.

The redistricting process is a lot like cutting up a pie. In North Dakota's case, the pie is baked off-kilter and most of the people filling is shifted off to one side, the Red River Valley.

It'll only take a small slice in Fargo to come up with the approximately 13,600 people in each of the 47 districts being proposed.

"A Fargo legislator could walk around his district in a half hour," Kempenich said. The two put about 5,000 miles on the odometer during their last campaign.

Kempenich figures the sheer enormity of so far-flung a district will have a chilling effect on people's willingness to serve it.

Forum
Fargo Plan Includes New District
By Janell Cole
October 18, 2001

State lawmakers redrew legislative boundaries in the stateís four major cities Wednesday, with Fargoís Republican-authored plan passing on a strict party line vote, 10-5.

The Grand Forks, Minot and Bismarck plans also were authored by Republicans, but passed unanimously.

The Legislative Redistricting Committee also shot down a proposal to set up an independent commission to do redistricting in the future. Rep. Pam Gulleson, D-Rutland, had a bill drawn up to do that.

An idea for House subdistricts for two American Indian reservations never spawned a motion. The Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold requested a subdistrict this week, and the ACLU proposed it earlier this month.

Wednesday was the second day of a do-or-die redistricting meeting. Legislators felt they had to submit a plan to their staff this week so a bill can be written for the Legislative Council to approve on Nov. 6.

If the council approves, the bill then goes on to the special redistricting session that is tentatively set to begin Nov. 26.

The Fargo redistricting plan was presented by Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo. It includes a brand new district, most of which is south of Interstate 94 and west of Interstate 29.

No incumbents have been moved out of their assigned districts, Carlson said.

Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, also passed out his own proposals to the committee on Tuesday, but said Chairman Mike Timm, R-Minot would not allow him to make a motion to adopt the plan.

He said after the meeting that one of the keys to Carlsonís plan is that it moves a solid Republican-voting neighborhood of south Fargoís District 46 and moves it into District 21, which has two Democratic-NPL legislators and one Republican.

Other facts on Fargo-West Fargo-Cass Countyís new plan:

District 11 in the cityís midsection loses the Agassiz Middle School area to District 21 and picks up the ìRepublicanî precincts between 17th Avenue South and Interstate 94.

Districts 41 and 46 on the south edge of the city are configured more compactly than they are now. District 45 on the north side is extended north to Harwood.

District 44, along the river on the near north side, remains essentially intact.

Except for the cities, the committee made virtually no modifications to the map it had given approval to on Tuesday, which cuts the state into 47 legislative districts instead of 49.

But Democratic legislators made several proposals designed to cut down on the number of Democrats that will have to run against each other. The Republican committee members wouldnít pass any of them except one to benefit Rep. Phil Mueller, D-Wimbledon.

The committee also argued for two hours about which incumbent legislators will have to run in 2002.

They decided that in any newly configured district that will end up with more than one incumbent senator or more than two incumbent House members there will have to be an election in 2002.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830.

Forum
N.D. Redistricting Plan Calls for Cutting 2 Districts
By Janell Cole
October 17, 2001

Legislators bit the bullet Tuesday morning and settled on reducing the size of the Legislature to 47 districts. Thatís two fewer districts than there are today, and means six legislators ñ four House members and two senators, will lose their jobs.

The vote to work with a 47-district plan was 9-6 by members of the Legislative Redistricting Committee. All five Democratic-NPL committee members and Sen. Layton Freborg, R-Underwood, voted no. The nine ayes were all Republicans.

Rep. Lyle Hanson, D-Jamestown, and Rep. Ole Aarsvold, D-Blanchard, have always supported an increase to 51 districts.

Urban Republicans and Gov. John Hoeven, also a Republican, have urged cutting of legislative districts to save taxpayers money.

Democrats said the plan on the table Tuesday was clearly drawn to pit incumbent Democrats against each other ñ ìobviously partisan,î said Sen. Steve Tomac, D-St. Anthony.

ìItís so obvious,î said Senate Minority Leader Aaron Krauter, D-Regent. ìTheyíre tired of being called partisan, and then they turn around and do this again,î he said.

Rep. Bill Devlin, R-Finley, who drew the plan, said he was ìjust drawing lines.î

But Krauter points out doglegs and boundaries in the plan that seem to go out of their way to take in multiple Democratic-NPL senators. For instance, the new District 20 is drawn in a stair-step shape that takes in northern Barnes County and the home of Sen. Phil Mueller, D-Hannaford; southern Steele County and the home of Sen. Ken Kroeplin, D-Hope, and Traill County, home of Sen. Elroy Lindaas, D-Mayville, who would then run against each other in 2002.

Another dogleg in the map puts Krauter and Tomac in a single district. Another stretches District 23 west in a stair-step shape to just barely take in Rep. Arlo Schmidt, D-Minnewaukan, putting him in a new district with incumbent Republican House members, including Devlin. And another makes a jog that puts Sen. Jerome Kelsh, D-Fullerton, and Sen. Joel Heitkamp, D-Hankinson in the same district.

After the meeting, Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said itís the Democrats who work with an overlay showing where their members live so they can draw proposed district lines to protect themselves.

ìIf itís partisan, it started over there,î he said angrily.

And Sen. Ray Holmberg said the Devlin plan hurts more Republican House members than Democrats. Republicans also complained that a 45-district plan drawn by Tomac ñ which is no longer being considered ñ seemed to obviously hurt Republicans.

Whether a 47-district plan will be challenged in the upcoming special legislative session by legislators who want 51 districts remains to be seen. The committee continues its meeting today.

ìUntil the legislative redistricting session is over, anything is possible,î said House Majority Leader Wes Belter.

Some who voted for 47 on Tuesday did so under duress, they said.

ìWhat choice do I have? Weíve got to get something out of this committee,î said Sen. Bill Bowman, R-Bowman. He favors raising the state to 51 districts.

Rep. Bill Devlin, R-Finley, also wants 51 but voted Tuesday morning for 47.

Still being debated is whether legislators will reconvene themselves for the special redistricting session Nov. 26 or if the governor will do it for them. If the governor does it, they will have unlimited time to work and anything they pass would go into effect almost immediately.

If the Legislature calls itself back, they have only three days to do their work due to the record-breaking length ñ 77 days ñ they met in their regular session this year. (Theyíre limited to 80 days each biennium.) And anything they pass would not take effect for 90 days unless an emergency clause garners a two-thirds majority in both houses.

Republicans have that majority in the House but are one vote shy in the Senate. Some Republicans have been unhappy that Hoeven hasnít decided if heíll issue the call. Hoeven says he wants assurances the session is going to have a time limit.

The governor said Tuesday he was pleased the committee had voted for 47 districts.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830.

Forum
Redistricting Creates GOP Rift
By Janell Cole
October 14, 2001

A simmering Republican rift over the size of the Legislature may come to a head this week, with a veteran GOP senator and the governor saying the lawmaking branch of government should get smaller, not larger.

But rural Republicans (and a few Democrats) say voters would approve of a larger Legislature and more districts because people donít like their legislators living more than 100 miles away.

ìWeíre the representatives of the people. They like to get hold of their legislators,î said Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck. ìItís tough when their districts get larger.î

Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, says the GOP opens itself to serious political damage if it adds legislators ñ and cost ñ while cutting the number of state judges and asking schools to consolidate the past several years.

A 24-year Senate veteran who also was on the last redistricting panel in 1991, Holmberg believes a larger Legislature corrupts a successful political strategy.

ìMost GOPers have run (since the 1989 tax referrals) on a campaign of limiting and reducing government and saving taxpayers money,î Holmberg says. ìBreaking faith with that longstanding position is just wrong and opens the majority to criticism of being hypocritical.î

Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, is also among the redistricting committee members who favor a smaller Legislature to save taxpayers money.

Since 1995, voters have given Republicans a larger majority in the Senate at every election, while also keeping the party firmly in control of the House.

The state currently has 49 districts. From 1981-91, there were 53 districts. The Legislative Redistricting Committee is considering a plan that would raise it to 51, along with other plans for 49, 47 or 45. Each additional district of two House members and one senator will cost the state more than $700,000 over the next 10 years.

Debate within the party over redistricting has led to some North Dakota Republicans muttering darkly in recent months about an impending party ìimplosionî over the issue. Itís a Republican issue because the party holds a 2-1 margin in the Senate, the House and on the Legislative Redistricting Committee. And urban Republicans are outnumbered 6-4 by their rural counterparts on the redistricting committee.

The state party organization is staying firmly on the sidelines.

ìWe as a party are trying to stay out of it as much as possible,î said Jason Stverak, party executive director. ìItís for them to handle.î

Stenehjem and House Majority Leader Wes Belter say itís possible the committee will just decide to submit two plans, probably for 47 districts and 51 districts, to the special session.

Belter agrees 51 districts may be an image problem for the GOP: ìIím not a real advocate of going up, myself.

ìOn the other hand, the people of North Dakota also want access to their legislators,î he said.

Gov. John Hoeven, also a Republican, believes a smaller Legislature is better. He, too, says the Legislature should follow the same downsizing path lawmakers have asked the school systems and judiciary to take.

ìIíve been encouraging them to reduce the number of districts. Itís about cost-effective government,î he said. ìWeíre asking school districts to consolidate, reducing the number of judgeships.î

Stenehjem says thatís a bogus argument.

ìWe have more teachers and administrators per student than weíve ever had. Thatís not a fair comparison,î Stenehjem said.

Rep. Bill Devlin, R-Finley and the author of two proposed plans still on the table, has argued for 51 districts since redistricting started this past summer. He says the cost of more legislators comes to about 25 cents per citizen per year.

But, Holmberg, cautions, ìthatís the kind of logic liberals have used for decades.î

Another champion of a larger Legislature, Sen. Bill Bowman, R-Bowman, is not necessarily changing his philosophy about government. He has long opposed the loss of rural judgeships and bills that might force small schools to close. His District 39 already reaches from the South Dakota border to Williston ñ more than 160 miles ó and he doesnít want to see it get bigger when Fargo and Bismarck gain districts due to population growth.

But Holmberg wonders how 51 districts helps rural areas maintain better representation, when it is the cities that would get the extra lawmakers in a larger Legislature.

ìAdding city legislators ñ I donít know how that helps rural North Dakota,î he said. ìIt helps incumbents.î

Sen. Steve Tomac, D-St. Anthony, also says a smaller Legislature doesnít hurt rural representation. He has submitted a plan to cut the state to 45 districts. Of todayís 49 districts, 24 are rural. With 45 districts, 22 would be rural. Whatís the difference? he asks.

With few exceptions, Democratic-NPL legislators and party officials are advocating a smaller Legislature.

Their biggest concern, said Senate Minority Leader Aaron Krauter, D-Regent, is the GOP majority running roughshod over the minority, forcing Democrat incumbents to run against each other in re-aligned districts.

ìYou havenít seen a debate until that happens, when they obviously eliminate Democratic legislators,î he said. ìRepublicans better be playing fair.î

Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, whose plan to create a number of rural-urban mixed districts was eliminated earlier this month, says taking two plans to the special session ìwould be an embarrassment to everyone.î The state has to get over its rural-urban conflict in order to grow economically and in population, he said.

One thing everyone agrees on: The state is unlikely to stay at 49 districts. Plans for 47 and 51 have easier math on a state map. Thatís because population shifts in the 2000 census show the number of people south and west of the Missouri River not easily divisible by the average 13,106 people needed in each of 49 districts. Lawmakers are loath to have districts straddling the Missouri River except to combine the sections of the Fort Berthold Reservation. The only surviving 49-district plan on the table puts a wealthy south Mandan neighborhood into a north Bismarck district, something legislators say will never be approved.

ìItís going to be difficult to pass a 49 plan,î said Timm, the committee chairman. ìIt tears everything up so bad and weíve got to cross the river a couple of times (to do it).î

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830.


 

Forum
N.D. Legislators Trim Redistricting Plan List
By Janell Cole
October 5, 2001

North Dakota legislators struggled Thursday to narrow 11 redistricting plans to four while facing criticism they arenít moving fast enough. The committee must complete its work in less than a month.

Legislators also gave a chilly reception to House subdistricts to represent American Indians, an issue that brought a lawsuit 10 years ago and might again.

The 15-member Legislative Redistricting Committee still hasnít decided how many districts there should be, and thatís caused some grumbling in and outside the committee.

ìThat task should have been completed today,î said Senate Minority Leader Aaron Krauter, D-Regent, at the end of the day.

House Minority Leader Merle Boucher, D-Rolette, agreed.

They can do that at the next meeting Oct. 16-17, said the chairman, Rep. Mike Timm, R-Minot.

The plans that survived Thursday are a 45-district map by Sen. Steve Tomac, D-St. Anthony; 47-district and 49-district plans by Rep. Bill Devlin, R-Finley, and a 51-district plan by Sen. Randy Christman, R-Hazen.

Despite the Democratsí remarks, the panelís votes to move four plans ahead and reject seven were split more along urban-rural lines than party lines.

A new legislative district map is needed this year to reflect population shifts revealed by the 2000 census. The state has had 49 districts since 1991. From 1981-91 it had 53 districts. The state constitution says it can be between 40 and 54.

For every additional district above 49, it would cost taxpayers $703,000 in the next 10 years, said the committeeís staff attorney, John Bjornson.

Devlin said that amounts to 25 cents per North Dakotan per year. He supports 51 so voters can be closer to their representatives. Rural legislators complain that their districts are too big at 49 districts or fewer.

Twelve plans were presented Thursday ñ 11 drawn by legislators and one by the American Civil Liberties Union. The committee voted on all but the ACLU plan, even though it was a statewide plan and was submitted to the Legislative Council by the Sept. 18 deadline.

The ACLU proposes three districts be subdivided to give American Indian voting blocks assurance that they can elect a House member from among their own numbers on the Standing Rock, Fort Berthold and Spirit Lake reservations. The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewaís reservation already is a voting block.

Jennifer Ring of the ACLU of the Dakotas quoted the 1965 Voting Rights Act and court cases. In addition to the Indiansí status as a racial minority with a history of suffering discrimination, they also have a unique political status, she said.

ìAre you trying to say to the committee that if we donít do this, weíre not being constitutional?î Timm asked.

ìTo meet the requirements of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, you are required to,î Ring said, particularly for Standing Rock and Fort Berthold.

ìRequired?î asked Timm.

ìI believe so, yes,î Ring said.

She did not threaten a lawsuit if Indian subdistricts are not adopted, but only because ìit is far too earlyî to consider.

She said South Dakota legislators 10 years ago adopted an American Indian sub-district ìbecause they were forced to.î

The concept of having only a few districts subdivided, while leaving all other districts undivided has been found constitutional, Ring said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830.



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