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Ho-Chunk ordered to redistrict

BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. - A tribal court judge ordered the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin Legislature to come up with a redistricting and reapportionment proposal that will fall in line with the nation's constitution.

Associate Tribal Judge Todd. R. Matha acted on a motion submitted to the court by former tribal president Chloris Lowe Jr. and former legislator Stewart Miller. The two accused the nation Legislature of not abiding by the Constitution and continuing the same redistricting and reapportionment they claim is unfair to tribal members and does not abide by the one person-one vote rule.

The amended Constitution stated the nation had to redistrict and reapportion every five years beginning in 1995, and that it must be done before an election. The year 2000 was the time to reapportion.

After the court ruling, the Legislature considered 17 different proposals for redistricting. The court ordered the Legislature to submit three proposals that will be narrowed down to two by the court, William Boulware, attorney for the Legislature, reported.

He said it will be determined that the proposals will meet "constitutional muster" and then the entire membership will be allowed to select one at a special election.

Boulware said the Constitution does not mandate the nation abide by the one person-one vote principal established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1960s. Boulware said the nation's Constitution states the policy should be pursued.

The Ho-Chunk Nation is divided with five districts. District Five, or the at-large district, is the largest district with 49 percent of the total population and has three legislators, one for every 1,001 enrolled members.

District One is located at the tribal headquarters and has 19 percent of the population with three legislators that each represent 392 enrolled members.

District Three is the smallest with one legislator representing 202 people, with District Two close in size with one legislator representing 538 people.

District Four has 19 percent of the population and three legislators represent 382 members each.

Judge Matha ruled that the Legislature failed to abide by the Constitution because it submitted a "no action or no change" option to the membership.

"One cannot pursue an objective through inaction," he wrote.

Defendants in the case agreed that if the no action-no change policy was determined to be constitutionally correct, they would drop their court action. Judge Matha, however, determined that no action policy violated the Constitution.

"The Legislature must propose redistricting and reapportionment scenarios which approach the one person-one vote objective as nearly as practicable," Judge Matha said.

Another motion before the court was a challenge to the special election held to fill the vacancy left when Clarence Pettibone was made nation president following the removal of Jacob Lonetree by the General Council. Judge Matha ruled the complainants had no standing because they did not live in a district that would be harmed if District One had one fewer legislator. A run-off will be held between Robert Mudd, former legislator and Greendeer, when a special election is called to deal with the redistricting.