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The election for the 75-member Constitutional Convention was held May 14, 1889, in a late spring snowstorm; many voters made the trip to the polling places in sleighs.
The Convention met, as scheduled, on July 4 of that year. A big parade was part of the entertainment offered the delegates and other visitors to Bismarck.
Most of the delegates were young men: 56 were Republicans, 19 were Democrats; 29 were farmers, and about a third of the total number was lawyers. Fifty-six of the delegates came from east of the Missouri (33 came from the six Red River Valley counties) and only 19 were from the large area west of the Missouri. None of the delegates was born in Dakota Territory, but 52 were native-born Americans.
The Convention was called to order at noon, July 4, 1889, by Luther B. Richardson, Territorial Secretary, and Fred B. Fancher of Jamestown was elected temporary chairman. The delegates nominated Fancher and Judge John F. Carland of Bismarck for president of the Convention; Fancher, a Republican, defeated his Democratic opponent 54 to 16.
President Fancher appointed a committee of seven on rules and methods of procedure; the members were chosen for their knowledge and experience in legislative and legal procedure. On July 8, the delegates elected a Chief Clerk, Sergeant-at-arms, Enrolling and Engrossing Clerk, Stenographer, Chaplain, Messenger, and Pages to complete the Convention organization.
The Committee on Rules and Procedure reported a list of 45 rules for the conduct of the meetings. One rule provided for open sessions to begin at 2 o'clock p.m. daily except Sunday; another provided for the appointment of 23 standing committees by the Convention president.
After the election of President Fancher on a straight party vote, there was no further division in the Convention along party lines. Democrats and Republicans were represented on all committees in fair proportion, according to the ratio of their number to the total delegate membership, and chairmanships of the committees were distributed on the same basis.