Summer weather has started here in North Dakota, and so has the 2021 legislative districting process. It will soon be a hot topic.

As you know, there’s a lot of interest in fair elections these days, and North Dakota Voters First aims to keep you informed regarding the districting process. With your help, we can prevent gerrymandering - the harmful practice of drawing unfair legislative lines that protect incumbents and political parties.

Every 10 years, the Census reveals changes in population growth and movement that require new district maps so each district has approximately the same number of people. During the last districting process in 2011, that number was determined to be 13,920 for each of the respective 47 districts in our state. North Dakota’s population has increased by over 100,000 during the last 10 years, so that number will certainly be different this districting cycle.

By law, a committee of legislators will develop a new map of legislative districts in meetings this summer and fall. The state Constitution says that there can be a maximum of 54 districts and a minimum of 40. Ultimately, the approved new map will be used in the 2022 through 2030 elections.

The first meeting of the legislative districting committee will take place Aug. 26 in Bismarck. The committee is composed of 14 Republicans and two Democrats. And, unfortunately, there are some diversity issues with this panel. For these reasons and more, many states have created independent commissions with diverse, unbiased, representative citizen members for legislative districting that would ultimately be fairer to voters. More information on the districting committee can be found online at legis.nd.gov.

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Why is this important? Legislators make decisions that affect our everyday lives – the economy, education, energy, health care, social services, and many others. Having fair legislative districts that respect communities of interest and unique boundaries make for better representation and public policy.

You can attend the 2021 districting meetings in person or online. Be sure to watch, provide public comment, call and write to committee members. Also, be sure to follow North Dakota Voters First on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be tracking the 2021 legislative districting process very closely and posting updates along the way. Together, we can help prevent gerrymandering in North Dakota.

Rick Gion, Fargo, is the director of North Dakota Voters First.