Fresh Off Redistricting, ND Tribal Advocates Look for More Gains

Mike Moen
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

MANDAN, N.D. -- Redistricting in North Dakota is now complete, but advocates for Native American voters say there is a lot to do between now and the next time district maps are drawn, in 2031. They hope to build off a key accomplishment in the most recent redrawing of district boundaries.

This fall, state lawmakers approved new maps which split House districts for the Fort Berthold and Turtle Mountain Indian Reservations.

Nicole Donaghy, executive director of the nonprofit North Dakota Native Vote, said they would like to see the same approach for all tribal communities. And over the next decade, she said they will keep pushing to have redistricting hearings on reservations when lawmakers revisit the issue.

"We need to be better prepared; we need to find a way to make it inclusive," Donaghy explained. "We need to include every ability that we have to include technology in the process, and that way, we're creating equity."

This fall, public hearings did include online participation, but tribal advocates argued it can be harder to access technology on reservations. In addition to in-person meetings, they hope workable solutions for virtual engagement can be found.

As for the new split districts, Donaghy pointed out they open the door to seeing the communities elect lawmakers who have their constituents' best interests at heart.

"The benefits of that is having the representation," Donaghy contended. "It draws self-interest to the communities. You know, voter turnout will increase, and so, there's a lot that rides on who is representing us."

Donaghy added her group will continue civic engagement on reservations to show how matters like these affect tribal members.

"So, we show them through custom content," Donaghy emphasized. "If we're working in Standing Rock, we'll have like content for Standing Rock."

Currently, only 1% of the North Dakota Legislature is made up of lawmakers who identify as Native American.