Posted on January 30, 2024

Nebraska Judge Orders Creation of Four Native American-Majority Voting Districts

Andrew J. Nelson, Courthouse News Service, January 26, 2024

A year after two Native American tribes sued a county where they are both located over Voting Rights Act violations, a federal judged signed off Friday on re-drawn boundaries for county supervisor districts.

The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and nine individual members of the two tribes, said in their initial January 2023 complaint that the American Indian population in Thurston County is large and geographically compact enough to constitute a majority in at least four districts.

According to the plaintiffs, white people held five of seven Board of Supervisor seats in Thurston County, despite comprising about 36% of the county’s total population and 43% of the voting age population. The 2020 Census found nearly 60% of Thurston County’s population was American Indian.

Chief U.S. District Judge Robert F. Rossiter Jr., an Obama appointee, in his order, consent decree and judgment filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for Nebraska, ordered that five of the seven districts in the county will now be American Indian majority districts.

Under the order, there will be four effective Native American districts. A fifth will have only a slight majority. The tribes had argued for four effective districts — districts with at least 70% American Indian population, said the tribes’ attorney Michael Carter, senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund.

“A bare majority Native American population voting district is not effective for Native Americans to elect the candidate of their choice,” Carter said, citing distrust and other issues that, in general, can keep non-white people from the polls. {snip}