BISMARCK — A North Dakota voter rights group wants the legislature to keep the district lines even when redrawing them based on results from the United States Census.

Members of North Dakota Voters First discussed HB 1397, which calls for a committee of legislators to redistrict the state.

The plan calls for 16 to 18 Republicans, and two to three Democrats to be on that committee to reflect the state Legislature's current breakdown of parties, according to Rich Wardner, the Senate's majority leader.

The bill also states the redistricting is exempt from open records laws, meaning the public won't be able to see the drafted maps.

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Voters First members argue the public should be allowed to have a say in the redistricting, and make sure all people will have the chance to vote.

"Being compact means you're close to the center, and so as long as you don't place the only polling place on the edge, you're giving everybody there an equal opportunity," said Ellen Chaffee, one of the group's members.

Voters First members are also arguing for the redistricting committee to have equal members of both parties from both the House of Representatives and the Senate to lessen the chance of gerrymandering, or having one party benefit themselves by drawing the lines in their favor.

"Other states have figured this out, and we can do better, and we're coming into this with the idea that legislators will work with us," said Don Morrison, another member of Voters First.

The redistricting bill is expected to be heard by the House's political subdivision committee at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 11.

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