Connect with us

North Dakota

Judge opposes postponing decision in favor of North Dakota tribes’ attempt to redraw legislative borders



Bismarck, North Dakota – On Tuesday, a federal judge denied a motion to reschedule his ruling in favor of two Native American tribes who wanted to alter North Dakota’s legislative boundaries to increase their representation in the legislature.

Republican Secretary of State Michael Howe attempted to have U.S. District Chief Judge Peter Welte postpone his decision in anticipation of an appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but Welte declined his request.

Welte declared last month that the map “prevents Native American voters from having an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” which is a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He granted Howe and the Legislature, which is under Republican control, until December 22 “to adopt a plan to remedy the violation.”

Howe declared his intention to file an appeal a few days after the Nov. 17 decision, citing a recent 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that states private parties and organizations like the NAACP are not permitted to file lawsuits under a significant portion of the historic civil rights legislation.

A high-ranking legislative panel decided to intervene, or join, in the lawsuit last week, but Welte turned down a move that legislators submitted on Friday.

On Wednesday, the Legislature’s redistricting commission will convene for the first time in more than two years to start discussing Welte’s November decision.

Phone inquiries seeking comment on the verdict were not immediately answered by Howe or legislative leaders.

The Spirit Lake Tribe and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians claimed that the 2021 redistricting plan “cracks Spirit Lake Tribe members out of any majority Native house district, and simultaneously packs Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians members into one house district.”

The two tribes unsuccessfully attempted to create a single legislative district that included both reservations, which are located about 60 miles apart, and sought a united district from the Legislature.

There are 47 legislative districts in North Dakota, and each has two representatives and one senator. Republicans are in charge of the Senate, 43–4, and the House of Representatives, 82–12. A minimum of two legislators, who are Democrats in the House, belong to tribes.

Four subdistricts were established by the Legislature for the state House, one for each of the Indian reservations at Fort Berthold and Turtle Mountain.

Legislators who participated in the 2021 redistricting process had previously stated that the subdistricts were created based on 2020 census data that satisfied the Voting Rights Act’s demographic standards.