Individual voters and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation joined the Walen v. Burgum lawsuit that sought to eliminate the majority-Native-voter state legislative subdistrict that encompasses the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. The tribal government and Native voters, along with the state of North Dakota, successfully defended the creation of House District 4A, a district that gave MHA voters an opportunity to elect their candidate of choice. The losing plaintiffs appealed the case, which went directly before the U.S. Supreme Court.

On May 6, 2024, voters and the MHA Nation urged the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit or to uphold the U.S. District Court’s ruling that found in favor the Tribal Nation and the state of North Dakota. The lower court’s ruling found that North Dakota’s 4A subdistrict, which primarily followed the boundaries of the Fort Berthold reservation, was legal and required by the Voting Rights Act

On the same day that the Tribe was defending the win, the North Dakota Attorney General urged the Court to vacate the favorable ruling he had won and remand Walen v. Burgum back to the U.S. District Court for further review. The state’s filing stated: ‘This Court should vacate the District Court’s decision and remand for further proceedings.’

The abrupt change left the MHA Nation and individual voters on their own to defend North Dakota’s legislative actions and Native voters’ rights before the Supreme Court. “We opposed this unconscionable change of position,” said MHA Nation Chairman Mark N. Fox.

The Native American Rights Fund, Campaign Legal Center (CLC), and The Law Office of Bryan L. Sells, LLC, represent the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, Lisa DeVille, and Cesar Alvarez, Jr. in the appeal.

“North Dakota subdistrict 4A meets court-established redistricting criteria that require legislators to create a subdistrict to ensure that all votes count,” said NARF Staff Attorney Michael Carter. “The subdistrict follows the political boundaries of the MHA Nation and allows voters from the Fort Berthold Reservation an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice to the North Dakota legislature. Native voters have struggled for generations to exercise their right to vote in North Dakota and gain representation at the state level.”

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