States will be drawing new political district lines following the 2020 census. In North Dakota, the Republican party is hoping they can draw these legislative lines in secrecy. Republican legislative leaders want to exempt their partisan drawing of these new lines from public records. We shouldn’t allow politicians and their national consultants to pick their voters and we damn sure shouldn’t allow their work to be done in the dark.

HB 1397 is introduced by House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, Assistant Majority Leader Scott Louser, and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner along with Assistant Majority Leader Jerry Klein. The bill would allow for gerrymandering, deal-making of district lines, and a secret process to rid officeholders without public votes. If there is no ill-intent, why would politicians demand their work be exempt from public records?

If you don’t believe gerrymandering exists in ND, look at a district map of the state. If you don’t believe these partisan leaders use to process to get rid of legislators they don’t want in state government, look at what happened to former state Senator Ryan Taylor. If you don’t believe this is all intentional, listen to former House Majority Leader Al Carlson’s blatantly partisan push from 2011.

This is a Republican plan for the next 10 years. Those new districts should be Republican, and I believe they’re very Republican. There should be six new Republican members (of the Legislature) as we go into the next election cycle. -Rep. Al Carlson (2011)

Did you count how many times he was able to squeeze the word “Republican” in there? Well, Carlson was wrong in that assessment. One of those “new districts” from 2011 he referenced was District 16. Ben Hanson and I took four years out of the ten he declared would be in Republican control. Damn right it is a point of pride. But Carlson’s comment underscores just how partisan the drawing of district lines is in its current form. That is the problem. The partisanship is also why these good old boys want to do it in a smoke-filled room away from public scrutiny.

In 2011, it wasn’t just District 16. District 7, the other “new district” Carlson referenced, was removed from North Central ND and placed in Bismarck. Part of their intent was to remove former Senator Ryan Taylor’s seat and make him run against another Democratic-NPL Senator. Thus eliminating a member of the other party by drawing of district lines. Taylor chose not to run. In District 22, they pulled in part of West Fargo because the incumbent at the time Republican Rep. Wes Belter moved there and they didn’t want to lose his seat. In District 25 that includes Wahpeton, they pulled in part of southern Cass County and cut out selected townships. This helped Senator Larry Luick maintain a small victory over Perry Miller in 2014 and 2018.

Democratic State Senator Erin Oban of Bismarck should watch out as they’re likely plotting to gerrymander the district she represents or simply place her in another district. In 2014, Oban defeated incumbent Margaret Sitte in an upset. The former NDGOP Chairman Gary Emineth ran against her in 2018. Emineth was embarrassed so badly by Oban he packed up and moved a couple of weeks later. Can’t beat them at the ballot? Just draw them out of representation by packing the district in your partisan favor.

Why do you think these politicians, their ad agency friend, and their dark money groups were so terrified of 2020’s Measure 3 to independently draw these district lines? They’re afraid of being exposed to voters. That is why they want this process barred from the public. Politicians should not be allowed to pick their voters. Period. Tell lawmakers to reject this attempted secrecy.