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House passes amended redistricting bill

The North Dakota House passed HB 1397 with Senate amendments to make the redistricting process more open to the public.

N.D. Capitol building.jpg
North Dakota State Capitol in Bismarck. Special to The Forum
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BISMARCK — North Dakota is a step closer to beginning its redistricting process, as an amended House Bill 1397 cleared the House last week and was sent to the governor’s desk.

Senate amendments to the bill would make redistricting drafts available to the public online through meeting agendas or hyperlinks, addressing one of the chief criticisms of the original bill.

The amendments were brought forth by Sen. Howard Anderson, R-Turtle Lake, to the Senate Political Subdivisions Committee on April 1. “What I am looking for here is to give the public a greater degree of confidence that we are trying to be as open as we can here,” he said.

Giving the public access to documents prior to the meeting was one of the concerns brought up from testimony in both the Senate and House hearings for the bill.

The bill will still keep drafts of redistricting maps exempt from public records requirements, as lawmakers and staff work on proposals.

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Despite proposals from North Dakota Voters First to create a bipartisan committee for redistricting, the bill was not amended to include a bipartisan committee.

Once the bill is signed into law it will likely mirror previous redistricting committees with 16 members, with the House and Senate each providing eight members. However, the bill does not stipulate a total number of members on the committee.

John Bjornson, executive director of Legislative Council, said in earlier testimony that redistricting will be done later this year as census data has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dylan Sherman is a reporting intern with the North Dakota Newspaper Association.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
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