Manatt Helps Secure Landmark Settlement For Native American Voter Representation in South Dakota

Manatt Partners John Libby and Sirena Castillo, in collaboration with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), Public Counsel, the Law Office of Bryan Sells and the Law Office of Randy Seiler, helped the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota achieve a landmark settlement with the Lyman County Board of Commissioners, including the appointment of an enrolled Lower Brule tribal member as County Commissioner, in a victory for Native American voting rights. The settlement marks the first time a Tribal member will be able to vote on county decisions impacting the community. 

The settlement stems from a Voting Rights Act lawsuit against the county and several of its officials in federal court for delaying the rollout of fair election districts following the adoption of new election district maps after the 2020 Census in 2022.  The lawsuit claimed the County’s voting system had weakened Native American votes. Prior to filing the lawsuit, voters on the Lower Brule Reservation and the Tribe urged Lyman County to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and change its at-large system to allow Lower Brule Reservation voters the opportunity to elect two out of five commissioners. While the Board of Commissioners did adopt such a plan, they delayed implementing the new district map until 2026.  Under the redistricting plan adopted by the county earlier this year, voters would have had to wait until 2024 to vote on a seat in a majority Native American district and then another seat in 2026. 

Now, the settlement provides for a current commissioner to resign their position, which will allow a Tribal member to complete their remaining term instead of having to wait for the 2024 election to have representation. It also guarantees that the County will not revise the election district maps until 2034, allowing Lower Brule voters to elect two seats on the board, as is their right under law.  

The settlement also instructs the county to take steps to inform voters of the changes to the county’s voting system and its redistricting plan. It also requires Lyman County pay $150,000 in attorney fees and expenses. 

Law clerks Kelsey Geiser, Emma Jogerst, and Russell Potter also contributed to the team’s work. 

Read the Consent Agreement here and learn more about the case here.  



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