For Immediate Release
November 20, 2023
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North Dakota Native Vote
Federal Judge rules against discriminatory North Dakota redistricting map for Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and Spirit Lake tribes
A win for Indian country and validation of the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act.
Bismarck, North Dakota—On November 17, 2023, a federal judge blocked North Dakota’s 2021 legislative redistricting plan from moving forward because it violates the rights of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and Spirit Lakes tribes by diluting their voting strength.
In his ruling, U.S. District Chief Judge Peter Welte said the plan approved by the state Legislature to redraw voting districts in accordance with the latest census data violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it “prevents Native American voters from having an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice” – a direct violation of the landmark civil rights law.
“Today is a victory for the people as it upholds the integrity of the Voting Rights Act. North Dakota Native Vote has been a part of North Dakota Redistricting since the process began with a bill in the State Legislature. To be witness to such a favorable outcome is a win for all people. Our communities will have the ability to elect a candidate of their choice, one that is accessible to their constituents, and knows the issues that affect their people.” North Dakota Native Vote Executive Director, Nicole Donaghy said. “Thank you to all of our community leaders who participated in every step of the process, from legislature to litigation.”
Wes Davis, North Dakota Native Vote Chairman of the Board of Directors said, “We believe that this ruling and the new legislative district will contribute to a more inclusive and responsive political landscape, fostering greater engagement and representation for all residents. As we move forward, we remain dedicated to upholding the values of transparency, fairness, and democratic governance in our electoral processes.”
“This ruling is a testament to the dedication of those involved in the redistricting efforts, who worked diligently to create districts that uphold the principles of democracy so all voices are included in the decision making processes.” Kirstin Cavanaugh, North Dakota Native Voice Vice Chair said. “The court’s endorsement reinforces the integrity of the redistricting process and affirms our commitment to fostering a system that reflects the diverse perspectives and needs of our community.
According to Native American Rights Fund (NARF) in the first election using the previous map that the court invalidated today, Native voters could only elect two of the 141 state legislators. For the first time since 1991, no Native American serves in the North Dakota State Senate as a result of the map passed by the legislature.
The North Dakota Legislative Assembly was court ordered to abandon the map and replace it with a VRA-compliant map before the November 2024 election. The state must provide a map that does not violate Section 2 of the VRA by December 22, 2023. The Turtle Mountain Chippewa and Spirit Lake Tribes can propose any changes by January 5, 2024.
North Dakota Native Vote works to engage tribal members in constructing a representative democracy by working in reservation communities as well as urban areas to create and affect policy and equal representation for the Native people of North Dakota. We foster sustainable, positive social change in our communities through community organizing, mobilization, leadership development, education, civic engagement, and public policy advocacy. North Dakota Native Vote advocates for positive change on policies on voting rights, victim’s rights, upholding treaties, food and energy sovereignty, North Dakota legislative issues, and more. Learn more at www.ndnativevote.org.