The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into an agreement to settle a voting rights lawsuit with the Chamberlain School District in South Dakota. The department’s lawsuit challenges the method of electing the Chamberlain School Board under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Under this agreement, subject to the approval of the federal district court in South Dakota, the School District will change its method of electing its School Board to ensure compliance with the protections of the Voting Rights Act.
The parties’ agreement was filed with the court in conjunction with a lawsuit filed by the department. The department’s complaint alleges that the current at-large method of election for the Chamberlain School Board results in American Indian citizens in the School District having less opportunity than white citizens to participate in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice to the School Board, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The department’s complaint is based on the well-established case law that follows the Supreme Court’s decision in Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30 (1986). The department’s complaint does not allege that the current method of election was adopted or maintained with discriminatory intent.
The department gave notice to the Chamberlain School District of its intent to bring suit under the Voting Rights Act on December 2, 2019, and the parties worked collaboratively to achieve this agreement. Under the agreement, the District will discontinue use of its current at-large method of electing its School Board. Starting in the 2021 election cycle, the seven members of the School Board will be elected from three two-member districts with one at-large position.
“This agreement reflects the department’s continued and resolute commitment to vigorous enforcement of the Voting Rights Act to protect the right to vote for our citizens in all elections,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “We appreciate that the Chamberlain School District has worked very cooperatively with the department to adopt a solution that safeguards the right to vote.”
“This agreement is a victory for good government,” said U.S. Attorney Ron Parsons for the District of South Dakota. “It upholds two of our most important constitutional pillars: representative democracy and equal protection under the law.”
More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting rights laws is available on the Department of Justice website at https://www.justice.gov/crt/voting-section.