Port: North Dakota Voters First cranks are wrong about redistricting

These are the ideologues and rabid partisans who would have you believe North Dakota's redistricting process is broken.

Ellen Chaffee and Richard Jensen.jpg
Local Fargo "pro-democracy" activist Richard Jensen and North Dakotans for Public Integrity co-leader Ellen Chaffee hold the "Courage Award" that Chaffee and co-leader Dina Butcher received at a national summit in Nashville over the weekend for their work on getting Measure One passed last fall. Chaffee said the award really belongs to North Dakotans who voted for the ethics and anti-corruption amendment. Barry Amundson / The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — Every 10 years we take a census of our population and, based on that count, we reapportion the proportionally representative branches of our government.

That means redrawing legislative district lines.

North Dakota has a process for this that works well. It has no problems.

Unless you're listening to the left-wing cranks at North Dakota Voters First. They see a problem, and despite their claims to the contrary, it's that Democrats aren't winning enough elections in North Dakota.

They want to change the rules which currently govern North Dakota's elections and redistricting process. They tried last year with a constitutional measure that was ultimately kept off the ballot by the state Supreme Court.


They're not giving up, bless their viciously partisan hearts.

The group is largely funded by Hollywood activists and at least one billionaire who made his fortune at the infamous, and now-defunct, Enron.

When a man used an ax to attack Republican Sen. John Hoeven's office recently, one of the group's founders, Democrat Ellen Chaffee, donated to pay his legal fees. When confronted about the donation, Chaffee, who styles herself a proponent of ethics and transparency, told a Bismarck Tribune reporter , apparently without irony, that she thought the donation was anonymous.

You can't make this stuff up.

These are the ideologues and rabid partisans who would have you believe North Dakota's redistricting process is broken.

This session the Legislature will pass a bill structuring the redistricting committee. That's House Bill 1397 , and the committee it would create would be made up of an equal number of lawmakers from the House and Senate.

The bill, as it's currently written, doesn't mandate any partisan quotas, but Democrats are expected to get a few spots, a number proportional to the few seats they occupy in the Legislature.

Chaffee and her fellow zealots don't like that.


"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," Tanner Robinson reports .

That might make sense if North Dakota voters had elected more Democrats to the Legislature, but the simple fact is they haven't. The Democratic-NPL doesn't have enough lawmakers in Bismarck to cover all of the regular session's committee assignments.

The voters of our state have overwhelmingly rejected Democrats, but Chaffee would have the Legislature override the will of the people and give Democrats equal representation on the redistricting committee.

An odd stance for a group calling itself North Dakota Voters First to take.

Again, North Dakota's existing process for redistricting has served the state well. The lines have been drawn fairly.

That Democrats mostly can't win here is not the product of gerrymandering but shoddy progressive politics which most North Dakotans reject.

People like Chaffee may not want to admit that, but it's simply true.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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