NATIONAL NEWS

Judge’s ruling awaited in tribes’ lawsuit over North Dakota redistricting map

Jun 15, 2023, 1:21 PM | Updated: 2:20 pm

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether the new boundaries of North Dakota’s legislative districts dilute Native American voters’ strength on two reservations whose tribes are challenging the map approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The bench trial in the case began Monday in Fargo; it ended Thursday. North Dakota District Chief Judge Peter Welte has taken the matter under advisement, with a June 30 deadline for the two sides to submit proposed findings.

Welte will issue a ruling “as soon as possible,” according to trial minutes.

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the Spirit Lake Tribe allege the 2021 redistricting map violates the Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights law from 1965. Their complaint argues that the reapportionment “packs” Turtle Mountain tribal members into one House district and leaves Spirit Lake out of a majority-Native district.

Tribal leaders unsuccessfully proposed to the Legislature a single legislative district encompassing the two reservations, which are roughly 60 miles (97 kilometers) apart. The tribes’ lawsuit seeks a joint district.

The Legislature created four subdistricts in the state House of Representatives, including one each for the Fort Berthold and Turtle Mountain Indian reservations. Lawmakers involved in redistricting cited 2020 census data meeting population requirements of the Voting Rights Act for creating the two subdistricts.

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Judge’s ruling awaited in tribes’ lawsuit over North Dakota redistricting map