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Area lawmaker pens letter to Legislative Council seeking clarification on district boundaries

Rep. Mike Schatz, R-D36, District lines between Hettinger, Stark and Dunn Counties, and the city of Dickinson, have caused constituent confusion on where the boundaries are, according to Schatz.

2021 Redistricting Map Final
This is the final map that was approved by North Dakota's redistricting committee.
Contributed / legis.nd.gov
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DICKINSON — North Dakota lawmakers passed a proposal for redrawing the state's political boundaries during a special session of the 67th Legislative Assembly in November of last year. The Republican-led committee’s publicly expressed intentions of reshaping districts was touted as an attempt to find equity in dividing the 47 legislative districts into approximately equal populations, as well as to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.

In February, two lawsuits questioned the legality of some of the changes. Lawyers representing parties in both lawsuits told Forum News Service the litigation over the new districts won't change the boundaries before the November general election.

In southwest North Dakota, a newly-formed district in District 39 was part of the legislative redistricting process. The district boundaries include portions of Billings, Golden Valley, Stark, Slope, Bowman and Adams counties.

Rep Mike Schatz, District 36, but after the 2021 legislative redistricting process is seeking re-election in the new District 39, penned an open letter to the Legislative Council on Tuesday. Schatz has served as a lawmaker since winning his seat for his first term in 1988, serving through 1990 before taking a reprieve. In 2008 he was again elected and resumed his seat, holding the position ever since.

In the letter, Schatz formally requested that a more accurate district map be produced.

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“Many people, myself included, cannot understand what the boundaries are between District 39, 37, and 36,” he wrote in his Tuesday letter. “The maps that you have are insufficient because they show streets and avenues inside the district, but not what makes up the boundaries.”

When the redistricting process was underway, Schatz said in an interview with The Press that he was initially unhappy with the selection of the committee and was even more upset with the changes proposed, passed and signed — alluding to gerrymandering .

Schatz
Rep. Mike Schatz speaks at his home in New England.
Dickinson Press file photo

The letter, carbon copied to Secretary of State Al Jaeger and other southwest North Dakota lawmakers, requests that a detailed map containing outlines of the three districts related to Hettinger, Stark and Dunn Counties, and the city of Dickinson, be created and disseminated to alleviate ongoing constituent confusion.

“If you would please put the state street or avenue number; the city street or avenue number; the highway; the county road; the county line; the section line with the numbers of the sections with the names of the township if applicable; the creek, stream, or the beginning of a river; or any other geographic, political, or transportation symbol on the boundaries so we can tell what is making up that boundary. Also, coloring the city of Dickinson at its city limits would help,” Schatz writes.

As southwest North Dakota voters head to the polls for the first time since the newly drawn congressional and legislative district lines were set, Stark County Auditor and Election Official Karen Richard invited confused voters to reach out to her office.

"There may be some confusion for some voters who are still trying to figure out who they can vote for. I would say for those individuals to please call our auditor's office or stop in and we can look up addresses and show them the map," Richard said. "Some people may have been told they are in one district when they're actually in another. We have the map here and while we did experience some issues with the primary, where some addresses hadn't been moved correctly, we fixed those. So, all the kinks should be worked out."

To get information on which district a voter resides in, visit the Stark County Courthouse, at 51 3rd Street East in Dickinson, or call 701-456-7630 to speak to the Auditor's Office.

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