I’m writing to urge the 2021 North Dakota legislative districting committee to study the possibility of splitting each Senate district into two parts for seats to the state House of Representatives. This is important, because rural areas will probably be losing representation in the North Dakota Legislature due to population shifts to urban areas reflected in the 2020 census.
As an example, let’s take a look at District 39. It takes up much of western North Dakota, covering the communities of Bowman and Watford City. It is a distance of 124 miles between those two cities. It can’t be easy for the three legislators who represent District 39 to cover the entire district. It obviously would give much better representation to voters if the district was split in two – 39A and 39B. The district would have one Senator, and voters in each half would elect their own member of the House of Representative.
There are multiple rural districts in North Dakota with similar challenges. Splitting House districts would also be beneficial for the representation of communities of interest, such as the state’s Native American population.
Splitting districts for a state House of Representatives is nothing new. Our neighbor to the east, Minnesota, uses this method. It works well for them. Their House seats are split by “A” and “B” districts. By doing this, they’ve achieved better representation for voters, especially in large, rural districts.
North Dakota legislative districting is a tremendously important issue that only happens every 10 years. The concept of split House districts should be part of the debate during the 2021 North Dakota legislative districting process.
Carol Sawicki, Fargo