On this date in 1889, as stipulated in the Omnibus Bill, Governor A. C Mellette issued a proclamation that an election shall take place on May 14th for the selection of delegates to the Constitutional Convention. The convention was to convene in Bismarck on July 4th. According to the Omnibus Bill, the northern and southern portions of the Territory were each to be divided into twenty-five districts with each district having three delegates. The districts were to be laid out based on population. To ensure some fairness to the minority parties, each qualified voter could only vote for two of the three delegates.
In North Dakota, the eastern counties, being the most populous, would receive the lion’s share of the delegates. Cass County was divided into three districts and controlled nine delegates. Most of the rest of the Red River Valley Counties such as Grand Forks, Richland, Walsh, Pembina and Traill were divided into two districts each. Further west the counties of Barnes, Stutsman and Ramsey were each a separate district. The north central and south central districts were comprised of four or five counties for each district and southwest of the Missouri River, the counties of Morton, Oliver, Stark and Billings were combined into one district. The district around Bismarck and Burleigh County comprised the largest land area and included sixteen counties.
It was difficult for politics to remain separated from the Constitutional Convention, as up and coming politicians could mount their careers with a berth at the convention, but it was the hope that only the more experienced, open-minded and forward looking men of the territory would be elected delegates. The editor of the St. Paul Globe cautioned against political aspirations when it published, “It is not the work of framing resolutions for a ward caucus or a platform of a political party that the people of the two Dakotas have in hand. It is a more serious business, no less than framing constitutions, for two great states, which have within themselves all the elements of empire….” The people of Dakota Territory had fought long and hard for self-government. In less than ninety days they would begin the daunting task of determining the laws by which they would be governed.
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
The Bismarck Weekly Tribune April 12, 1889
The Bismarck Weekly Tribune April 19, 1889
Jamestown Weekly Alert April 18, 1889
Grand Forks Weekly Herald April 19, 1889
History of Dakota Territory by George W. Kinsgbury. J. Clarke Publishing 1915