North Dakota Takes the First Step Towards Independent Redistricting

A new ballot initiative that creates an independent commission to create state legislative districts was approved to begin collecting signatures today. The proposal, developed by the North Dakota League of Women Voters, would create an eight-member bipartisan commission, with seven members appointed by the chief administrative judges of North Dakota and the chair selected by a committee of Republican and Democratic lawmakers in conjunction with the chairman of the geography department at the University of North Dakota.

Currently, the North Dakota legislature redistricts itself every ten years by the standard legislative process, with the bill subject to a gubernatorial veto. The new commission, while accepting legislative input, would not be required to implement any of the legislature’s suggestions, nor would the legislature vote on the commission’s plan. The commission itself would be required to hold regular public meetings during the redistricting process.

The initiative’s supporters will have to gather 25,688 valid signatures before August 4 in order to place the measure on the 2010 ballot. Should they fail, they will have another year in order to make the 2012 general primary ballot, or sooner if a special election is called after they have collected a sufficient number of signatures.

The Bismarck Tribune noted:

An amendment similar to the League of Women Voters’ initiative was introduced in the North Dakota House during the 2009 Legislature, sponsored by state Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, who is the Democratic candidate for secretary of state. It was defeated, 58-34, with Republicans opposing the plan and Democrats favoring it.

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