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Most Bismarck-area legislative districts see few changes in draft redistricting map

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Most Bismarck-Mandan residents likely will see few changes in their legislative district boundaries, but some area lawmakers elected last year might have to run again sooner than expected to keep a seat.

The Legislature's 16-member, Republican-led Redistricting Committee on Wednesday approved a final draft map for reapportioning legislative districts with 2020 census data.

The draft maintains 47 districts, each with one senator and two representatives, and includes a House subdistrict for the Fort Berthold and Turtle Mountain Indian reservations.

The six Bismarck and Mandan districts changed little, according to committee members.

"I would say, generally speaking, most people living in inner Bismarck and inner Mandan probably won't notice much for change," said Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck. "Certainly some of the legislative district lines had to move in places to be able to adjust appropriately for the target populations, but most of the current district lines ... were followed and maintained pretty closely."

Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, a two-time mapmaker, said the draft map has "very minimal disruption" for Bismarck, but for District 7.

That district grew 61% in population from 2010-20 and had to be trimmed. The panel aimed for 16,576 people per district, or the state's population divided among the 47 districts.

"We had to reduce that district, which had an effect on several different districts: the new District 8, all the way up to the new District 6, so we had to take care of those issues there," Nathe said. 

The draft map goes to the Legislative Management panel on Nov. 1, which will advance a final layout to the Legislature.

Lawmakers plan to meet in a special or reconvened session beginning Nov. 8 to approve a new map of districts and to divvy up North Dakota's $1 billion share of federal American Rescue Plan Act coronavirus aid. It's unclear how long the session will last.

But when the dust settles, some area lawmakers elected last year likely will find themselves in new districts, and potentially might have to run against a colleague to keep a seat.

The current District 8, a swath north and east of Bismarck, would essentially be dissolved, moving its three lawmakers each to a different district.

Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, would land in the proposed District 33, comprising Mercer and Oliver counties and parts of McLean and Morton.

Rep. Dave Nehring, R-Bismarck, would land in a new District 8 with Rep. Jeff Magrum, R-Hazelton. That proposed district, comprising part of rural Burleigh County and Emmons County, would have no sitting senator in it. Magrum would be split off from the current District 28.

Sen. Howard Anderson Jr., R-Turtle Lake, would be in a new District 6, and could face Sen. Shawn Vedaa, R-Velva, in 2022 for a two-year term.

An election most likely would still occur even if one or the other decided not to run, according to Legislative Council Director John Bjornson.

A bill draft sets a staggering of terms and elections for lawmakers in new districts. 

The Bismarck bedroom community of Lincoln is shifted from District 7 into the proposed District 8 with Emmons County.

Lincoln Mayor Gerarld Wise initially opposed the reconfiguration but came to understand the population structure and how Lincoln would be the district's largest city.

"I think it's going to be good for the future of Lincoln," Wise said.

Mapmakers sought to keep counties and Indian reservations whole -- though Dunn County was diced into four proposed districts.

The draft map keeps more than 30 of the state's 53 counties intact. 

Oban said she hopes "the lines that exist make sense to voters and to election officials." 

"The opinion of politicians should be last on the list, but the way Bismarck-Mandan came out, for the most part, all of those politicians are also respected in the process," she said.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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