BISMARCK — North Dakota leaders tasked with reconfiguring the state's political geography have come to terms on a draft of the state's new legislative districts.

The 14 Republicans and two Democrats on the state redistricting committee, a reflection of the Legislature's GOP supermajority, met Thursday, Sept. 23, to approve a map of 47 districts with roughly equal populations. The full Legislature will consider the proposed district lines at a special session in early November.

Images of the map likely won't be public until next week as staffers review the draft, but the panel discussed in detail the major implications of the proposal.

Under the plan, three rural districts, two in the northeast and one in the southeast, would morph into new districts in the Fargo area, the Williston area and the southwest corner of the state. The shifting lines mirror the trends of rural-to-urban migration and explosive growth in the once-sparsely populated Oil Patch.

The new district in Cass County, designed by Fargo Republican Sen. Ron Sorvaag, would sit on the border of Fargo and West Fargo and include neighborhoods around West Acres Mall and the Red River Zoo that are currently split between districts 16 and 27. If lawmakers approve the plan, it would give the state's most populous county an 11th legislative district.

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The plan also maintains four districts in and around Grand Forks and seven districts in and around Bismarck-Mandan.

The draft ruffled the feathers of some rural lawmakers, such as Lidgerwood GOP Rep. Kathy Skroch, who would be grouped into districts with other incumbent lawmakers. Skroch pointed out that a redrawn district encompassing Richland County would now have five incumbents vying for three seats, adding that the voters of her current southeastern districts would be "disenfranchised" by losing their legislators.

Longtime Sen. Ray Holmberg, a Grand Forks Republican, noted that the voters in Skroch's area would not be disenfranchised because they can still vote a candidate into the Legislature.

Some mapmakers, such as Montpelier GOP Rep. Craig Headland, have said they strongly considered where incumbents live when drafting their proposals for pieces of the map. Others, such as Fargo Democratic Rep. Josh Boschee, said he didn't pay much mind to incumbents and tried to draw lines along county boundaries and major thoroughfares.

The final map approved Thursday was mostly drafted by members of the committee who said they wanted to strike a balance between maintaining existing district lines and keeping counties and neighborhoods together.

All of the proposals for redrawn districts can be found at www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/67-2021/session-interim/2021-legislative-redistricting-maps.

North Dakota's current legislative districts were crafted using figures from the 2010 U.S. Census. (Screenshot via North Dakota Legislature)
North Dakota's current legislative districts were crafted using figures from the 2010 U.S. Census. (Screenshot via North Dakota Legislature)