In the wake of the Voting Rights Act ruling, North Dakota is appealing the decision that protected the rights of tribes
A day after a federal appeals court dealt a major blow to the Voting Rights Act, North Dakota’s top elections official announced Tuesday that he wants the court to review a judge’s recent ruling protecting the voting rights of two Native American tribes.
Voting rights groups applauded a ruling by U.S. District Judge Peter Felt on Friday that tribes’ voting rights had been unlawfully diluted by the 2021 legislative redistricting map.
But in a separate lawsuit on Monday, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that individuals and private groups like the NAACP do not have standing to sue under a key section of the Voting Rights Act.
In announcing his intention to appeal Welty’s ruling, Republican Secretary of State Michael Howe specifically cited Monday’s 2-1 ruling by the appeals court panel, which is based in St. Louis and has jurisdiction over seven states, including North Dakota. It is unclear whether the same three-judge panel will hear the North Dakota case.
Republican Attorney General Drew Wrigley said Monday that the appeals court ruling “is an interesting and timely development” as state officials and legislative leaders consider their next steps regarding Friday’s ruling.
The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, the Spirit Lake Tribe and three tribal members filed a lawsuit last year, seeking common territory for the two tribes. They claimed that the 2021 map “consolidates members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians simultaneously into a single home area, and excludes members of the Spirit Lake Tribe from any home area with a majority.”
Welty ruled last week that the 2021 map “prevents Native American voters from having an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice” — a violation of Section 2, a provision of the Voting Rights Act that “prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on an electoral basis.” on the basis of race, color” or membership in certain linguistic minority groups, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Welty gave Howe and the Republican-controlled Legislature until December 22 to “adopt a plan to address the abuse.” It was not immediately clear how the appeal would affect the judge’s schedule.
The special redistricting session will be the second this year, immediately after the Legislature met for three days last month in Bismarck to fix the budget mess caused by a major state government funding bill that was struck down by the state Supreme Court.