Indigenous nations allege new maps in North Dakota violate suffrage law


Two Native nations in North Dakota are suing the state, alleging Republican lawmakers redrew district maps in a way that diluted their votes and violated the Voting Rights Act.

New maps were redrawn and approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature in November. GOP Governor Doug Burgum signed the cards into law shortly after.

In their trial, The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the Spirit Lake Tribe say that the state was supposed to redraw the maps, after the decennial census, to allow native voters to select the candidates of their choice for the state House of Representatives. Instead, actions taken by state lawmakers will split their constituencies or move their voters to different precincts, allowing white voters to have even greater influence over state policy.

In North Dakota, voters in each State House district select two people to represent them in Bismarck. Under new rules concocted last fallhowever, some districts are split into two sub-districts, where voters in each section will be able to choose one of the two members separately.

Michael Carter, a staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, alleges that the two sub-districts that were created in District 9, where members of the Turtle Mountain Band reside, brings together indigenous voters in one of the sub-districts but distributes many other native voters among other districts, thus diluting their votes in the State House. Instead of having influence over the selection of the two House members for District 9, the sub-district is making it so that they will likely only have influence over the selection of one member, while the The other House member for District 9 will likely be chosen by a majority white population.

The maps consolidate “the entire reservation into a single sub-district, rather than giving tribal members in that area the opportunity to elect two State House representatives”, Carter said.

Spirit Lake voters are also moving to District 15, again diluting their votes in a predominantly white area.

“North Dakota has created a map that ensures voters living on these two tribal reservations face a no-win scenario before every election even begins,” said Zachary Kingone of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit brought by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

“In every election, you hope your vote brings positive change. Yet our state officials have chosen to create and endorse an electoral map that denies Native American voters that opportunity,” added plaintiff Collette Brown of the Spirit Lake Tribe.

Voters of the two Aboriginal nations tend to vote for Democratic candidates more than Republicans. The predominantly white areas around them are more conservative and tend to choose Republicans.

According to the lawsuit, the new neighborhoods violate Article 2 of the Voting Rights Actwhich prohibits discriminatory “voting practices or procedures” on the basis of race.

“Our voice is going to be drowned out once again. It’s getting a little sickening, tell me the truth, ” said Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa President Jamie Azuretalking to The Guardian On the question.


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