BISMARCK, N.D. — While the stage is being set for redistricting in North Dakota, lawmakers appear willing to give the public more of a window into how the legislative maps come together.
Watchdogs said that’s encouraging, but will continue pressing for transparency.
The North Dakota Senate could vote as early as this week on a bill establishing the redistricting process. A committee recently took up amendments amid criticism of an open records exemption.
Carol Sawicki, chair of North Dakota Voters First, said they’re encouraged by discussion to provide the public an online link to maps a couple of weeks before key meetings, but she stressed they’re still demanding the final process bill include guarantees.
“We are trying to put them on notice that’s what we want and that’s what the public deserves,” Sawicki stated. “So that they can look them over and say, ‘I really don’t understand why this line is there.’”
She pointed out transparency concerns are underscored by the fact the party in control of the Legislature, in this case Republicans, can draw the maps to their advantage with no outside input.
Supporters of the original language have noted the special redistricting committee will include Democrats, but amendment authors say the changes show their willingness to be open.
Voters’ rights groups have been critical of other legislation this spring dealing with election policy and procedure.
Sawicki said like other states, North Dakota saw proposals that, in her group’s view, aimed to make voting harder.
“I think there was a lot of bad bills presented that very many of them were either withdrawn or defeated,” Sawicki remarked.
She explained they were happy to see the defeat of a bill that would have limited early voting, but she added they’re still concerned about a transparency measure surrounding political donations.
Sponsors of election procedure measures defended their proposals as ways to enhance voting security in light of fraud concerns at the national level, despite no evidence of that.