Dakota Datebook

District Elections

Thursday, May 8, 2014

 

On this date in 1889, only six days remained until the election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention for the new state of North Dakota.  The twenty-five districts were laid out with minority representation in mind.   Each district had three delegates to the convention, but voters could only vote for two, allowing for a solidified minority to elect the third delegate.

In Cass County, each of the three districts had held local elections to pick delegates to the Republican District convention held on May 1st.  Col William Plummer, one of the more prominent members of the Cass County Republicans, preached harmony within the ranks, a theme echoed in each of the districts.  To ensure a victory, each district was advised to nominate only two Republican delegates to avoid the risk of dividing the party again.  Meanwhile, the Cass County Democrats had met on April 27th to select delegates for their local convention.

In Bismarck, the Republican Central Committee apportioned that district into twenty-four precincts.   Each precinct elected one delegate, except for the four wards in the City of Bismarck which were allowed up to six delegates.   These delegates attended the Republican county convention, which in turn selected eight delegates to the District Convention, which determined the final Republican ticket for the official election on May 14th.  Burleigh County Democrats followed suit, setting up twenty-three precincts to elect delegates for a county convention, which was followed by a Democratic District Convention that advanced two candidates for the official ballot.   From May 2nd to May 8th there were six elections in Bismarck alone, each creating additional tension as potential candidates maneuvered for the final nomination.   The stakes were high, so the political air was electrifying.

A similar scenario was enacted across the Territory with the exception of Stutsman County.  Stutsman was divided into twenty-five precincts, and on May 4th each precinct selected delegates to the county convention to be held in Jamestown.  To reflect the Republican majority, Stutsman County would select two members from the Republican Party and one member from the Democratic Party to represent the county at the Constitutional Convention.  This was the unique feature in what became known as the People’s Convention, a rarity in Dakota’s volatile political arena.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis

Sources:

The Bismarck Weekly Tribune May 10, 1889

Jamestown Capital May 3, 1889

The Daily Argus May 3, 1889

The Grand Forks Weekly Herald May 10, 1889

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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