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Gerrymandering

3/26/2015:

Gerrymandering is a practice by which a political party attempts to manipulate voting district boundaries for political advantage. The party in power has control of the process, so the party out of power regularly accuses the other of gerrymandering. The term was coined on this date in 1812. It appeared in a political cartoon in the Boston Gazette. Governor Elbridge Gerry signed a bill into law that would benefit his party by redistricting. One of the new districts was said to resemble a salamander. The cartoonist combined that description with the governor’s last name to invent a new word. “Gerrymander” has been in use ever since.

North Dakota has been dominated by the Republican Party. Whenever the subject of redistricting comes up, accusations of gerrymandering arise. In 2010, a committee redrew district lines. It was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Dalrymple. Democrats accused the committee of gerrymandering to maintain control of the state. They pointed out that the committee was controlled by Republicans. The Republicans responded that the Democrats win so few elections that they do not get many seats on committees. They also noted that the Republicans gained two seats in the house, but the Democrats gained two in the Senate, so it evened out.

Voting districts in North Dakota are redrawn every ten years. Burleigh County Auditor Kevin Glatt said that gerrymandering does not promote a positive voting experience. The district lines sometimes run through backyards, and divide neighborhoods. He said voters have a negative attitude, as they have the impression that the districts are manipulated for political purpose. The League of Women Voters agree that gerrymandering should be opposed. They point to some oddly shaped districts as evidence of the partisan intent.

A survey showed that North Dakotans seemed to agree, preferring that a non-partisan commission be in charge of redistricting. Participants in the survey felt that gerrymandering did indeed give an advantage to the party in power.

The populations of Grand Forks and Fargo are growing, and that might help Democrats. But the new immigrants to western North Dakota are expected to be more Republican. It is difficult to determine just how the political winds are blowing in North Dakota.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

Sources:

Port, Rob. “North Dakota Democrats Accuse Republicans Of Gerrymandering, But Say Population Growth Will Help.” 31 March, 2014. "http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/north-dakota-democrats-6/" http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/north-dakota-democrats-6/ Accessed 19 March, 2015.

Bismarck Tribune. “Bismarck redistricting plan sparks criticism.” 17 September, 2011.

Sawicki, Carol. “Does North Dakota Need Redistricting Reform?” The North Dakota Voter, July, 2009.