New Activity in ND Redistricting Lawsuits Over Tribal Lands / Public News Service
July 1 is the next scheduled court date for a pair of lawsuits related to North Dakota’s redistricting process. The legal issue concerns the political boundaries of the tribal areas and whether their federal rights are respected.
A lawsuit alleges the state violated the Voting Rights Act by failing to create a majority Native American legislative district for the Spirit Lake and Turtle Mountain reservations. The other case is to protect a newly created sub-district encompassing the Fort Berthold Reservation.
Native American Rights Fund staff attorney Michael Carter said he believes the law is on their side, noting recent federal activity in the former case.
“The US Department of Justice has filed a statement of interest in the case,” Carter said, “taking our stand against the state.”
The position is that the Voting Rights Act gives citizens the ability to assert their legal rights in these situations. The state disagrees and has sought to dismiss the case filed by the tribal nations.
The competing lawsuit, filed by GOP officials, argues that it was unconstitutional for the state to consider race when creating the Fort Berthold subdistrict.
Lisa DeVille, who resides on the Forth Berthold reservation, participated in the legal efforts on behalf of the tribesmen.
She said the legislators were right to establish the sub-district in this area and strengthen the voting power of the natives, and notes that this is an area often neglected by the state.
“The only time these people come to visit us is when they want our vote,” DeVille said. “Never seeing what we are dealing with, what we need, our needs, our desires.”
DeVille, who is currently running for House District 4A in the state Legislature, said keeping the subdistrict could pave the way for more candidates who better reflect the interests of tribal voters.
Meanwhile, GOP plaintiffs in the case have indicated they will present their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. They are appealing the denial of a preliminary injunction they sought before the primary elections last month.
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