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Native Vote.  Voters and two North Dakota-based tribes, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and the Spirit Lake Tribe, on March 14, 2024 filed a response to the North Dakota Secretary of State's appeal of a court order that requires the state to use a legal legislative map for its elections.

In November 2023, the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota ruled that the state’s 2021 legislative map unlawfully diluted votes cast by Native American people. The court ruled that the boundaries North Dakota set for Districts 9 and 15 violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by cracking apart the Native American voting population, and ordered the state to adopt a legal map by December 22, 2023.

Instead of working to develop a legal map, the Secretary of State and the North Dakota legislature have filed multiple appeals, and have so far been unsuccessful. 

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On January 8 2024, after North Dakota failed to propose a legal map, the court ordered a fair and legal map, which will be in place for the 2024 election. In the appeal to the Eighth Circuit, North Dakota claims that only the U.S. Attorney General has the right to sue the state for violating a private citizen’s right to vote. However, the suit was also brought under a law generally referred to as Section 1983, which provides all citizens with the right to sue to protect their Constitutional and legal rights against unlawful government action. The District Court judge allowed the case to proceed under Section 1983, and the Secretary of State is appealing that decision.

"In this case, North Dakota was sued under two laws: Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which protects each citizen from racially discriminatory voting restrictions and Section 1983, which allows any U.S. citizen to sue when their rights are violated," said Native American Rights Fund (NARF) Staff Attorney Michael Carter.

NARF, Campaign Legal Center, and the Law Office of Bryan L. Sells, LLC, represent the plaintiffs in their suit. Tim Purdon of Robins Kaplan LLP represents the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the Spirit Lake Tribe.

"Last year, a federal judge ruled that North Dakota’s Native voters were silenced by unfair maps – a challenge filed both under the Voting Rights Act and Section 1983, which, for decades, has been an established mechanism to address voting rights violations," said Mark Gaber, senior director of redistricting at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. "We hope and expect this challenge to North Dakota's Native voters, and voting rights generally, to be rejected in line with decades of precedent."

Read the Order: https://narf.org/nill/documents/20240318tmc-appellee-brief.pdf

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