State of North Dakota

North Dakota Legislative Redistricting Challenge (Turtle Mountain Band)

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians v. Jaeger

Lawsuit filed on behalf of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, Spirit Lake Tribe and individual Native American voters challenging North Dakota’s new legislative districts drawn with 2020 census data. The complaint alleges that the new districts dilute the voting strength of Native Americans in the state in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit specifically focuses on how Native American voters in northeastern North Dakota can now only elect the candidate of their choice in one district, compared to two under the previous map. The complaint alleges that the Legislature packed Native American voters from the two plaintiff groups into one legislative district and spread them out among nearby districts. The lawsuit asks the court to block the use of the districts and order the Legislature to adopt a new plan that “does not dilute, cancel out, or minimize the voting strength of Native American voters.” The plaintiffs did not seek relief for the 2022 election cycle. On April 10, 2023, the court denied the North Dakota secretary of state’s motion for summary judgment, meaning the plaintiffs’ Section 2 claims will be considered at trial on June 12, 2023. On Nov. 17, 2023, the court struck down the map for violating Section 2.

On Dec. 4, the North Dakota secretary of state appealed the ruling to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Dec. 15, the 8th Circuit denied the state’s motion for a stay pending appeal, meaning a Section 2-complaint map will be in place for 2024.

On Jan. 8, 2024, the judge ordered North Dakota to adopt the plaintiffs’ proposed remedial map that complies with Section 2 of the VRA and denied lawmakers’ request to have more time to draw the map. On Jan. 26, the North Dakota Legislative Assembly appealed this order, as well as an order denying its motion to intervene, to the 8th Circuit.

On Feb. 2, 2024, the plaintiffs filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of a June 6, 2023 8th Circuit decision, which held that North Dakota state legislators are absolutely immune from producing certain documents and testimony due to legislative privilege. The 8th Circuit previously denied the plaintiffs’ petition for rehearing en banc of its June 6 legislative privilege decision.

STATUS: Appeals from the secretary of state and the legislative assembly over the legislative map are all ongoing in the 8th Circuit concurrent to the petition in the U.S. Supreme Court regarding legislative privilege.

Case Documents (district court)

Case Documents (8th circuit)

Case Documents (U.S. Supreme Court)

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