Federal Court Says South Dakota Must Approve Changes to Legislative District With Indian Reservations

May 2, 2002 12:00 am

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PIERRE, S.D.-A federal court in South Dakota has ruled in favor of four Indian voters in a lawsuit brought against the state by the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ruling, issued today, requires state officials to get federal approval before implementing a new legislative redistricting plan in a district that includes the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Sioux Indian reservations.

“This is a milestone for our people,” said Alfred Bone Shirt, a Lakota tribal elder and lead plaintiff in the case. “We need to have a say-so in the direction of our future.”

The ACLU filed the case last December after the South Dakota Legislature redrew the boundaries of the State’s 35 legislative districts. At issue was whether the redistricting required the state to comply with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

South Dakota is one of several states covered in part by Section 5, which requires covered jurisdictions to get federal approval before making changes to their election laws and procedures. The State had refused to seek approval of its new districts and argued that the changes to the reservation district were too minor to trigger Section 5. The court yesterday disagreed, ruling that even minor changes require federal approval.

“This is a very good decision for our clients,” said ACLU staff attorney Bryan Sells. “The Court rejected every one of the state’s arguments.” The case is entitled Bone Shirt v. Hazeltine, 01-3032.

To read a copy of this ruling please go to: /Files/Files.cfm?ID=10391&c=184

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