Hickson secession petition filedHICKSON — A petition to secede from Cass County to Richland County has officially been filed by a group of upset citizens here, but the county boards will likely decide whether to let the measure come to a vote.
By: Sam Benshoof, The Dickinson Press
HICKSON — A petition to secede from Cass County to Richland County has officially been filed by a group of upset citizens here, but the county boards will likely decide whether to let the measure come to a vote.
The petition, which would shift part of Cass County to neighboring Richland County, was organized after voters learned that a $1.8 billion proposal to re-route the Red River would put their properties under water during floods. They said their elected officials weren’t concerned about it.
The next step in the process is for Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir to verify that the 15 signatures on the petition reflect a majority of the residents in the area who are qualified to vote. Upon verification, the petition would then be presented to the Cass County Commission at its Dec. 5 meeting.
States Attorney Birch Burdick, who reviewed the legalities of the issue after it arose last month, said secession, otherwise called de-annexation, works like this: If the area in question is larger than the size of a North Dakota congressional township — 36 square miles — then the issue, by law, must be placed on the next general election ballot for a vote.
However, because the size of the area included in the petition is much smaller than a township — Montplaisir estimated it is about one-tenth the size — the commissions in both counties will decide whether to place the issue on the ballot, Burdick said.
If commissioners approve a public vote, it must pass in both counties to be approved. And that’s assuming it gets that far.
“If it doesn’t come to a vote, then it dies on a dime,” Burdick said.
Although seceding may have been the target of jokes when it first came out, Hanson said the law exists for a reason.
Benshoof is a reporter for The Forum at Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.