GOP-led panel to redraw North Dakota redistricting maps

BISMARCK (AP) — Republicans, who vastly outnumber Democrats in the Legislature, will lead a committee to redraw North Dakota’s legislative districts this year, a task that will influence the political balance of power for the next decade.

A redistricting committee of 14 Republicans and two Democrats was picked Wednesday during a meeting of Legislative Management, a 17-member GOP-led panel of lawmakers that handles the Legislature’s business between sessions.

A seat on the redistricting committee is always competitive because it decides potentially new areas that lawmakers will represent, and 95 of the Legislature’s 141 members applied. Members were chosen based on recommendations from party leaders.

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

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

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

One looming question is whether to increase the number of districts because of bigger urban population gains, to keep sprawling rural districts from covering even more ground to absorb more constituents.

North Dakota’s Constitution allows for as few as 40 legislative districts and as many as 54.

Legislative Management on Wednesday also named the members of 27 interim committees. The bipartisan committees will study an assortment of subjects in the run-up to the 2023 legislative session, from school funding to gambling addiction.

North Dakota is one of four states where the Legislature meets every other year.