14.9 C
New York
Friday, April 12, 2024

Trial begins in Native American tribes' lawsuit over North Dakota redistricting map

Two tribes are in federal court this week, trying to prove to a judge that North Dakota’s legislative district map dilutes Native American voters’ strength on their reservations.

A trial began Monday in Fargo in the federal lawsuit brought last year by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the Spirit Lake Tribe, who allege the redistricting done in 2021 by the Republican-led Legislature violates the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 civil rights law.

Their complaint alleges the reapportionment “packs” Turtle Mountain tribal members into one House district and leaves Spirit Lake out of a majority-Native district.

A federal judge last year denied the state’s request to dismiss the case on the grounds that the tribes lack standing to sue. The bench trial in Fargo is estimated to last five days. A judge will decide the verdict.

The Republican-led Legislature in a November 2021 special session reapportioned its 47 districts based on 2020 census data. Each district has one senator and two representatives.

The Legislature created four subdistricts in the state House of Representatives, including one each for the Fort Berthold and Turtle Mountain Indian reservations. Lawmakers involved in redistricting cited 2020 census data meeting population requirements of the Voting Rights Act for creating the two subdistricts.

Turtle Mountain didn’t ask the Legislature for a subdistrict; Spirit Lake did and was denied, according to attorney Tim Purdon.

BIDEN TO APPOINT FIRST NATIVE AMERICAN UNITED STATES TREASURER

What to Expect at Trial

The tribes will propose their district plan to the judge at trial as one “that does, in fact, comply with the Voting Rights Act,” Purdon said.

A “best-case scenario” would be the two tribes sharing a senator, with a House member from each tribe, Donaghy said.

“We are determined at building representation and getting equitable representation in the lawmaking process for our Native people,” she said in an interview.

Monday’s trial proceedings included opening statements and testimony from former Spirit Lake Tribal Chairman Douglas Yankton Sr.

No matter the trial’s outcome, the makeup of the Legislature wouldn’t significantly shift.

Native Americans tend to vote for Democrats, who hold just 16 of 141 seats in the Republican-supermajority Legislature. Two lawmakers, both House Democrats elected last year, are known to be members of tribes sharing geography with North Dakota.

The lawsuit also is not the first time tribes and the state have clashed in court over similar matters. For years, the state’s voter identification requirements were embroiled in federal lawsuits until a settlement in 2020. Many tribal members who live on reservations lack a verifiable street address, a component of the state’s voter ID requirements.

Related Articles

Stay Connected

1,520FansLike
4,561FollowersFollow
0FollowersFollow
- Advertisement -

Latest Articles