A federal court has struck down the legislative maps that North Dakota Republicans enacted after the 2020 census, ruling that GOP mapmakers violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of Native Americans.
In North Dakota, legislative districts have traditionally elected one state senator and two state representatives, but following the most recent census, lawmakers split the 4th and 9th districts into two state House "subdistricts" to ostensibly comply with the VRA. However, said the court, the timing of the state's elections rendered the 9th noncompliant.
While the district has a 54% Native majority and went 51-47 for Joe Biden in 2020, its legislative elections are only held in midterm years, when Native turnout is often particularly low compared to that of white voters. (Lawmakers in both chambers serve staggered four-year terms.)
As a result, Republican Kent Weston won the 9th by a 54-46 margin last year, defeating longtime Democratic state Sen. Richard Marcellais. That left the Senate without any Native American members for the first time since 1991.
The House subdistricts were also flawed in another way, the court held. Rather than divide the 9th District in such a way that Native voters would be able to elect their preferred candidates in both subdistricts, Republicans instead deliberately packed Native Americans into just one of them.
That left District 9A with an 80% Native population while 9B was just 32% Native. The former consequently supported Biden 73-26 and elected a Democrat to the legislature, while the latter went for Donald Trump 61-37 and sent a Republican to the statehouse.
The court set a Dec. 22 deadline for North Dakota's Republican-dominated state government to pass a new map to remedy the violation and ordered that new elections be held in November 2024, when Native turnout should be higher. However, it's possible that a GOP appeal could drag out a resolution until after 2024.