Rural N.D. to take remap hitIf North Dakota’s redrawn legislative district map is finalized next month without any changes, rural representation will take a hit. Urban representation will increase. It looks like rural North Dakota will lose two districts. Two urban districts will be added: one in Fargo, one in Bismarck. That translates into a loss of rural legislators and a gain of city/suburban legislators.
By: The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, The Jamestown Sun
If North Dakota’s redrawn legislative district map is finalized next month without any changes, rural representation will take a hit. Urban representation will increase. It looks like rural North Dakota will lose two districts. Two urban districts will be added: one in Fargo, one in Bismarck. That translates into a loss of rural legislators and a gain of city/suburban legislators.
Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s one-person, one-vote mandate, the legislative committee redrawing the map has little choice. Each district has to have the same (give or take a few) number of residents. Therefore, in low-density rural areas, districts already spread out over hundreds of square miles — some as large as a couple of New England states combined — will be even larger. On the other side of the remap scale, the growth of Fargo and Bismarck requires the committee to add districts to keep the district population formula in balance.
In other words, geography is destiny when it comes to representation in the Legislature. Or is it?
The special remap committee, led by Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, seems intent on playing a zero-sum game. That is, Holmberg is reluctant to add legislative districts to accommodate rural concerns about the increasing area of already huge rural districts. The state now has 47 districts, but the state Constitution allows 54. A carefully crafted 54-district legislative map could reduce the area of rural districts while maintaining the mandate for equal representation. More districts carved out in rural areas would also at least slow the erosion of rural/small-town representation at the state Capitol.
Not interested, Holmberg said recently. He was quoted as saying North Dakotans don’t want “more government.” He missed the point. They might not want more government (debatable), but they certainly want effective representation in government, no matter what government’s size. Redistricting that makes it more difficult than it is now to recruit good candidates from rural areas can be perceived as an urban thumb on the scale.
Holmberg’s committee has a plan ready for the special session next month. He and his colleagues have worked hard, but that does not mean the result is satisfactory. The Legislature has an obligation to consider something other than the committee’s work — something that will better serve rural North Dakotans.