ND Faces Redistricting Lawsuit Filed by Native American Tribes
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Two of North Dakota's Native American tribes hope new legal action will compel the state to reconsider political boundaries approved last year. Despite some progress, their advocates say the new maps still dilute the voting rights of tribal members.
In a federal lawsuit filed this week, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the Spirit Lake Tribe said the maps violate the Voting Rights Act. In redistricting, lawmakers were urged to approve split House districts so tribes can elect candidates of their choice. But Michael Carter, a staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, said that in the two sets of sub-districts that were created, one leaves Turtle Mountain in a bind.
"That packs the entire reservation into a single sub-district, rather than providing the tribal members in that area the opportunity to elect two state House representatives," he said, "but instead, this new map only allows them to elect one."
The people left out of that new sub-district have claimed their voting power will be overwhelmed by the white population. At the same time, the Spirit Lake Tribe, which wanted to be part of a joint district alongside Turtle Mountain, saw its request denied. The North Dakota secretary of state, a defendant in the case, hasn't responded to a request for comment.
Republicans involved in redistricting said they wanted to avoid gerrymandering in considering certain requests. The other sub-district they approved was for the Fort Berthold Reservation.
Nicole Donaghy, executive director of North Dakota Native Vote, helped push for boundaries sought by tribes. She said the committee factored in some arguments, but the lawsuit described a dismissive tone.
"A lot of this could have been avoided had there been more open discussion and more communications between all interested parties," she said.
Her group and tribal leaders had pushed for redistricting hearings on reservations, but there were none.
While two of its board members signed on to the suit, North Dakota Native Vote isn't a plaintiff in the case, but Donaghy said the group supports the decision to challenge the state.
"We see it as the first stepping stone to make this redistricting process a bit more transparent and equitable," she said, "and also using a better process next time around."
get more stories like this via email
Research is emerging about the secondary trauma school staff members face after helping students during the pandemic. As summer moves forward…
Health and Wellness
A Florida judge plans to put a hold on the state's new, 15-week abortion ban, set to take effect today. He said it is unconstitutional and will issue …
The Environmental Protection Agency now has fewer tools to fight climate change, after the U.S. Supreme Court stripped the agency of its authority to …
Three projects in Idaho have been selected to receive grants from the AARP Community Challenge. Among them is the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in …
Montanans get a sense of what soil health is like on farms and ranches across the state with Northern Plains Resource Council's soil crawls. The …
A new tool aims to help older adults in Arkansas and beyond who receive Medicare track what happens at their doctor appointments. It also can help …
A campaign in Maine is gathering signatures to replace the state's investor-owned energy grid with a consumer-owned utility. Central Maine Power (…
Another important U.S. Supreme Court ruling this month has been overshadowed by the controversy about overturning abortion rights. Legal experts say …