The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Judge: S. Dakota City Discriminated Against Indian Voters

by Catherine Komp

Dec. 8, 2006 – Native Americans in South Dakota won a four-year-old legal battle this week when a federal court ruled that the city of Martin violated the Voting Rights Act and discriminated against American Indian voters.

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The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two Native American voters, challenged a 2002 ordinance that redrew the city’s three voting districts so that none had a majority of American Indians. Plaintiffs accused the small southwestern city of intentionally diluting Native American’s voting power.

Nearly 45 percent of Martin’s 1,078 residents identify as Native American.

Under the Voting Rights Act, plaintiffs only need to prove that the effect – rather than the intent – of a redistricting plan is discriminatory.

The ruling, which also details Martin’s and South Dakota’s "long, elaborate history of discrimination against Indians," orders city officials to submit a plan to remedy the illegal districting by January 5, 2007.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Catherine Komp is a contributing journalist.

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