Federal Court Declines To Block Elections System That Dilutes American Indian Vote In South Dakota

May 5, 2010 12:00 am

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ST. LOUIS – A federal appeals court today declined to block an elections system that dilutes the American Indian vote in the city of Martin, South Dakota. The divided 7-4 opinion was issued by the full panel of judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and follows a legal challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in April 2002 on behalf of two American Indian voters. The lawsuit argued that a redistricting plan adopted by the city in 2002 prevented American Indian voters from having an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

American Indians make up approximately 45 percent of the city’s population but the redistricting plan ensures that white voters control all three city council districts.

The following can be attributed to Bryan Sells, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project:

“Everyone deserves an equal voice in the selection of city officials, but today’s ruling will mean that the city of Martin can continue to use a redistricting plan that gives non-Indian voters an overwhelming majority in each of the three city council districts. We are extremely disappointed that American Indian voters, who make up more than a third of the city’s voting-age population, will effectively have no voice in their government.”

Today’s decision is available online at: www.aclu.org/voting-rights/cottier-et-al-v-city-martin-opinion-0

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