ND tribes win in federal court lawsuit
BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Tribes in North Dakota saw a big win yesterday in federal court. A federal judge in Fargo denied the state’s motion to throw out a lawsuit brought by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. The lawsuit claims the state’s new legislative districts infringe upon Native Americans’ voting rights.
In November, the state redrew legislative districts, as they do every 10 years. Leaders from the Turtle Mountain and Spirit Lake Reservations proposed that the best way to represent their people was to combine both Reservations into one legislative district. That’s not what happened. Instead, lines were drawn in a way that split up the tribes into different districts. What the tribes are challenging in court is the legality of the new lines, which they say limits their ability to elect lawmakers.
“That under-representation hurts tribes, but it also hurts our state. Diversity of thought, diversity of background, having tribal members with their diversity of experience in the Legislature makes tribes stronger, but it also makes our state stronger,” said Tim Purdon, lawyer at Robins Kaplan LLP and legal representation for the Spirit Lake Tribe.
North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit because he says they lack standing to bring the claims and tribes are not individual citizens of the United States.
In his ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge Peter D. Welte said “The court can see no reason why a federally recognized Indian tribe would not have standing to sue to protect the voting rights of its members when private organizations like the NAACP and political parties are permitted to do so.”
Your News Leader reached out to Secretary of State Al Jaeger Friday, but he declined to comment because litigation is ongoing.
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