FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECR
TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2000(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUES SOUTH DAKOTA FOR ALLEGEDLY
DISCRIMINATING AGAINST NATIVE AMERICANS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today sued South Dakota for allegedly discriminating against Native Americans by creating an at-large election scheme for a state legislative district, in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
In February, the Justice Department notified state officials that it had determined the at-large method of election for a particular state legislative district, House District 28, diluted minority voting strength in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Thereafter, the Justice Department entered into negotiations with state officials to resolve the matter short of litigation. The negotiations were unsuccessful, resulting in today's suit.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the district of South Dakota, alleges that in 1991, the district at issue was composed of two single-member districts, District No. 28A and District No. 28B. In 1996, the state legislature eliminated District No. 28A, resulting in an at-large, dual-member method of election for House District 28. Because the 1990 Census had determined that House District 28A had a majority Native American population, the Justice Department suit alleges that the intent and result of eliminating District 28A was to discriminate against Native American voters in this district.
"The Voting Rights Act guarantees all citizens the right to fully participate in the democratic process," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "Today's suit will result in all citizens of the district having a fair opportunity to vote for candidates of their choice."
The suit also names as defendants the state's Governor, President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the County Auditors of the six counties which make up House District 28. The district is comprised of Dewey, Corson, Harding, Perkins, and a portion of Butte, and Ziebach counties.