HELENA – A federal lawsuit filed against the Wolf Point School District argues that school board districts are arranged to favor white voters in a predominantly Native American area and seeks to have the districts redrawn.
School board districts are apportioned to give a predominantly white district proportionally greater say on the school board than American Indian residents, which is an unconstitutional violation of the Voting Rights Act, the America Civil Liberties Union of Montana argued in the lawsuit Wednesday.
The group is asking a federal judge to force the school board of trustees to draw new districts.
The district said it has not seen the lawsuit yet and couldn’t comment.
The Wolf Point School District website said 80 percent of its students are Native American.
According to the lawsuit, one predominantly white voting district has a population of 430 people and elected three members to the board. That is one board member for every 143 residents.
By comparison, the predominantly Native American voting district has a population of 4,205 people and elects five board members – or one board member for every 841 residents, the lawsuit said.
“This clearly violates the principle of one person, one vote, and creates a school board where white members of the district are overrepresented and Native Americans are underrepresented,” ACLU of Montana Legal Director Jon Ellingson said in a statement. “The school district has an obligation under both state and federal law to redraw voting districts every 10 years based upon accurate population numbers. It’s long past time for the district to do that.”
None of the members of the school board are enrolled members of a tribe, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit, filed in Great Falls, also asks the federal court to assume jurisdiction over a redistricting process and school board elections until they are deemed fair.