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Got Your Pen Handy? ND Residents Urged to Submit Redistricting Maps

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Friday, August 27, 2021   

BISMARCK, N.D. -- "Do-it-yourself projects" are usually associated with home improvements, and as redistricting unfolds in North Dakota, voter advocacy groups say it can also apply to redrawing political maps as a form of public input.

Redistricting, required each decade after a census count, might sound like a wonky task for political insiders, but in the digital age, folks can use free software to draw suggested boundaries as they prepare their testimony.

Katie Fahey, founder and executive director of the anti-gerrymandering group The People, said whether someone draws a map to share, or simply speaks up in a hearing, they are joining a national movement of increased participation.

"They can say how they would like the representation to look. They can highlight the issues that have been ignored for the last ten years," Fahey outlined.

Other states and their redistricting committees have created public websites that offer interactive tools. It is unclear how North Dakota's committee will handle input. Several hearings planned for September will be livestreamed. Absent a public site, there is a variety of software available online, although some might not include all the latest census data.

Carol Sawicki, chair of North Dakota Voters First and treasurer of the League of Women Voters of North Dakota, said they hope the public aims floodlights at what typically has been a backroom process. She noted because hearings are expected to be virtual as a result of the pandemic, it will make it easier to participate.

"Anyone who's interested in how things work in Bismarck can watch this from start to finish without too much difficulty, and can have an impact on that," Sawicki remarked.

Statewide groups say their outreach to lawmakers is nonpartisan, and are specifically calling for split districts in the North Dakota House. That's in part due to population shifts affecting rural areas.

Because they control the Legislature, Republicans are leading redistricting in North Dakota.


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