ND legislators: We'll keep our voters, thanksBISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota lawmakers decided Thursday to keep the power to pick their voters, instead of giving it to an independent redistricting commission, and rejected a proposal to allow the governor to threaten vetoes of their bills.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota lawmakers decided Thursday to keep the power to pick their voters, instead of giving it to an independent redistricting commission, and rejected a proposal to allow the governor to threaten vetoes of their bills.
North Dakota House members refused to put constitutional amendments on the ballot to overhaul the state's legislative redistricting process, and defeated a separate amendment to remove constitutional language that bars the governor from "menacing" legislators with his veto power.
Governors have interpreted the provision as preventing them from saying they would veto legislation before they actually did so. It has never been reviewed by the courts.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple, a former lawmaker himself, has said he does not believe the change is needed. Representatives defeated the amendment, 70-24.
"The governor ... could potentially stop legislation from coming forward, or change the minds of legislators," said Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot. "We just felt the process works well how it is now."
Rep. Scot Kelsh, D-Fargo, said North Dakota is the only state that does not allow a governor to make veto threats. Kelsh called the "menacing" provision "antiquated and redundant," and argued it would be better for lawmakers to know the governor's intentions beforehand.
"All this simply does is clear up the confusion about the point in our process that the governor can weigh in on legislation, before it reaches his or her desk," Kelsh said.
The redistricting amendment failed, 69-25, after Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, said the job of drawing new legislative districts should be kept in the hands of elected officials.
Sponsored by Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, the amendment established a five-member commission to draw new legislative districts every 10 years, after each federal census. Four of the commission's members would be picked by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders, the amendment said; the four would then unanimously choose a fifth member as chairman.
North Dakota lawmakers are now in charge of drawing legislative districts. The process lets them set the number of districts and choose, by setting district boundaries, which voters they will represent.
The North Dakota Constitution allows the Legislature to have as few as 40 and as many as 54 legislative districts. It now has 47, each of which is represented by a senator and two House members.
Mock said an independent commission would pay more attention to regional interests and county and city boundaries, and less to political considerations, such as packing districts with GOP- or Democratic-leaning voters and making sure incumbents were not forced into the same districts.
Mock said the amendment would not affect this year's redistricting process, which is spelled out in a separate bill. It specifies that an equal number of House members and senators will be named to a redistricting committee, which will prepare a plan to submit to a special session of the Legislature this fall.
"Twenty states across the country have some form of a commission that handles redistricting, and they've all done it very well," Mock said.