BISMARCK — North Dakota leaders tasked with redrawing the state's legislative districts have heard from both sides of the aisle on how the Fargo area should be sliced up.

The 14 Republicans and two Democrats on the state redistricting committee, a reflection of the Legislature's GOP supermajority, met Thursday, Sept. 16, to review proposals for new political districts as the decennial process ramps up.

State Sen. Ron Sorvaag unveiled on Thursday his plan for cutting Cass County into 11 legislative districts, each with roughly 16,600 residents.

The Fargo Republican said his proposal aims to respect incumbent legislators and existing district lines in the state's most populous county, while keeping neighborhoods together.

Under Sorvaag's plan, all 30 lawmakers living in the county would stay in their existing districts. The senator has said maintaining continuity between legislators and their constituents should be a guiding philosophy for mapmakers. Sorvaag added that in building his map, he consulted with incumbents and other stakeholders and tried to be as fair as possible without making too many "cute angles."

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The plan also details the creation of a new Fargo-West Fargo district that includes neighborhoods around West Acres mall and the Red River Zoo that are currently split between districts 16 and 27. The metro area's significant population growth over the last decade has necessitated the addition of an 11th district in the county.

Several districts combine rural and urban areas, while others conjoin Fargo and West Fargo — a reflection of the arrangement where 20% of Fargo feeds into West Fargo's school district, said West Fargo Republican Rep. Austen Schauer. Sorvaag noted that he represents both rural and urban constituents and doesn't see a problem with putting them in the same district.

Sorvaag's proposal deviates from a plan presented last week by Fargo Democratic Rep. Josh Boschee, who drew lines based on city boundaries and major thoroughfares. Boschee said he did not put much consideration into where incumbents live while drawing districts since he believes the map that will stand for a decade shouldn't take current officeholders into account. Boschee also tried to separate out rural Cass County, saying that voices in those communities shouldn't be overpowered by Fargo area residents.

Sen. Ron Sorvaag, R-Fargo, speaks to the state redistricting committee on Wednesday, Sept. 8, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fargo regarding the legislative redistricting for eastern North Dakota. Chris Flynn / The Forum
Sen. Ron Sorvaag, R-Fargo, speaks to the state redistricting committee on Wednesday, Sept. 8, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fargo regarding the legislative redistricting for eastern North Dakota. Chris Flynn / The Forum

Even though they have different philosophies, Boschee said Sorvaag's map is "workable" for Cass County and keeps many of the same core neighborhoods together as in Boschee's own proposal. The next step will be taking the plans back to colleagues and other stakeholders and doing some negotiations before the committee meets again next week, Boschee said. He added it's likely Cass County will be one of the first parts of the map the panel locks in before finalizing the rest of the state and presenting the whole proposal to the full Legislature at a special session later this year.

The committee also recently reviewed plans to redraw districts in the Bismarck, Dickinson, Grand Forks, Minot and Williston areas, as well as rural sections of eastern North Dakota. The proposals can be viewed at https://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/67-2021/session-interim/2021-legislative-redistricting-maps.

North Dakota's population has boomed since 2010 as the Fargo area and western Oil Patch saw massive growth. Troy Becker / Forum News Service
North Dakota's population has boomed since 2010 as the Fargo area and western Oil Patch saw massive growth. Troy Becker / Forum News Service