Redistricting Scenarios Provided to Ho-Chunk Nation Membership

By Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature

As a result of action by the Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature on May 22, 2018, seventeen (17) proposals for changing the boundaries for the Nation’s Legislative Districts will be provided to tribal members of the Nation.  At a Regular Meeting on May 22, 2018, the Legislature adopted a motion to provide the seventeen proposals for Redistricting to the membership through publication in the Hocak Worak, at Legislative District Area meetings and through social media. 

 The Legislature is in the process of redistricting under Article V, Section 4 of the Ho-Chunk Nation Constitution, which states:  “The Legislature shall have the power to redistrict or reapportion including changing, establishing, or discontinuing Districts.  The Legislature shall maintain an accurate census for the purposes of redistricting or reapportionment.  The Legislature shall redistrict and reapportion at least once every ten (10) years beginning in 1995, in pursuit of one-person/one-vote representation.  The Legislature shall exercise this power only by submitting a final proposal to the vote of the People by Special Election which shall be binding and which shall not be reversible by the General Council.  Any redistricting or reapportionment shall be completed at least six (6) months prior to the next election, and notice shall be provided to the voters.”  Since the last redistricting was completed in November 2008, the Legislature is planning to complete this round of redistricting six months prior to the Ho-Chunk Nation’s spring 2019 General Election. 

Starting in December 2017, the Legislature provided redistricting background information to Tribal Members on the Nation’s website and at Legislative District Area meetings.  A general list of factors, criteria and guidelines to be used by the Legislature when selecting a redistricting proposal was shared with Tribal Members.  This included emphasis on how the constitutional requirement of “one-person/one-vote” is interpreted and how the Ho-Chunk Nation Judiciary has considered this idea in the context of the number of enrolled Ho-Chunk Nation eligible voters in total, and residing in proposed districts.  

From January 2018 to April 13, 2018, Tribal Members were encouraged to participate in the process of legislative redistricting by submitting ideas and scenarios to change the existing geographical boundaries of the five Legislative Districts.  The Legislature received seventeen proposed redistricting scenarios from several tribal members.  On April 30, 2018, a Redistricting Forum was held at the District 1 Community Center in Black River Falls, for those with proposals to provide more explanation to Legislators and the tribal membership.  Over fifty tribal members attended the event, which was also live-streamed on Facebook and electronically connected to other Ho-Chunk Nation Branch Offices. 

The next steps in the redistricting process involved a review of the seventeen proposed scenarios by the Legislature and a period of time for Legislators to build off what was submitted shortly after.  Meanwhile, the various criteria applicable to redistricting were refined as the Legislature moved to the stage of selecting a final proposal. At a Special Legislative meeting on May 21, 2018 and at a Regular meeting on May 22, 2018, the Legislature discussed the seventeen proposed scenarios, along with updated formulations from previous years and supplemental proposals from Legislators.  Through the application of several criteria, the Legislature narrowed the list of redistricting proposals it intended to include in its final proposal down to three (3).  After much debate, it was narrowed further to two (2) and put to a vote of the Legislature.  Ultimately, the President of the Nation had to vote to break a legislative tie, resulting in the defeat of the legislative resolution to accept the final proposal on redistricting. 

What’s Next?

 In an effort to keep momentum and progress on redistricting, a decision was made to put the seventeen redistricting proposals submitted by tribal membership out for widespread review by tribal members.  Thus, with this edition of the Hocak Worak, the seventeen proposed redistricting scenarios are published.  The same will also be shared at Legislative District Area meetings in June. 

At the same time, the Legislature wanted to highlight some of the criteria and factors used by the Legislature when assessing redistricting proposals.  As noted from the outset, the Legislature will be considering how the Ho-Chunk Judiciary historically discussed and interpreted redistricting.  For example, the Trial Court of the Nation previously stated that the concepts of redistricting and reapportionment, along with the principle of one person, one vote, did not originate from Ho-Chunk custom or tradition.  See Chloris Lowe, Jr. v. Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature, et al., Order (Implementation of Appellate Standard) CV 00-104 (HCN Tr. Ct., Mar. 30, 2001) at 4.  The Trial Court went on to say, “[r]ather, the constitutional framers deliberately incorporated those fundamental precepts of representative democracy as acknowledged and articulated by the United States Supreme Court into the [Ho-Chunk Nation] Constitution.” 

Through past orders and rulings, the Nation’s Trial Court has applied legal criteria and factors derived from the Constitution to different redistricting scenarios.  In doing so, the Trial Court applied a formula for analyzing whether eligible voter tribal member populations were sufficiently represented under previous legislative final proposals.  Even as the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court stated, the Trial Court “provided guidance as to what [redistricting] plans do not pursue or further that plan.  The HCN Legislature is advised to be guided by the advice of the lower court as to the type of plans that do not pass constitutional muster.”  See Chloris Lowe, Jr. v. Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature, et al., SU 00-17 (HCN S. Ct., Mar. 13, 2001) at 8. 

Thus, when the Legislature goes about trying to select a final proposal that is in pursuit of one person, one vote, it will be guided by several of the factors previously addressed by the Nation’s Judiciary.  Such factors include, for example:


Article V, Section 4 of the Ho-Chunk Nation Constitution states “ The Legislature shall redistrict and reapportion at least once every ten (10) years beginning in 1995, in pursuit of one-person/one-vote representation.” In order to adhere to this constitutional concept, there must be a way to measure “one-person/one-vote representation.”  The way to do this is by measuring the Deviation Range of a Redistricting Scenario. The Deviation Range shows how equally represented the various districts are to each other, in order to prevent unfair representation across the districts. Each District in a Redistricting Scenario is given a Deviation percentage. This percentage shows how far that District deviates from the Ideal Number. We obtain the Ideal Number by taking the total number of Eligible Voters divided by the number of Legislators for the scenario. For example, using the current legislative districts and the count of Eligible Voters in October 2017, we get our Ideal Number by dividing 5925 Eligible Voters by 13 Legislators to get 455.76 or 456. (Differences in numbers can occur from different rounding methods.)  To calculate the Deviation Range for the current Districts, one would look at the difference between the highest District (4.31%) and the lowest District (-9.50%) deviation. For this example, it would be 13.81%. The higher the deviation, the further away from “one-person/one-vote” the Scenario is.
Continuing on, each District’s deviation percentage is calculated from finding the percentage difference between the District’s Voters per Legislator and Ideal number. The ideal number can change from scenario to scenario depending upon the number of legislators.  It is important to remember that each Redistricting Scenario can be analyzed differently based on the Ideal Number. This is why Deviation Range is used, so that each Scenario is analyzed using the same method and can be compared to one another when considering “one-person/one-vote.”
 Other Factors:
It should be noted that, when it comes to deviations, the Nation’s Trial Court has indicated some deviation percentages can be acceptable if the plan is based on considerations of aboriginal homeland or territory, contiguity, or community affinities.  These are factors the Legislature may use as it considers redistricting scenarios for inclusion in its final proposal.

The concept of contiguity usually requires that all parts of a district be physically connected.  In other words, none of the geography included within the district is entirely separated from the remainder of the district by land that is assigned to another district.  In some situations, exceptions are made for islands, separated by water.  This is a traditional factor applied by courts in their analysis of redistricting plans.  The Ho-Chunk Nation Trial Court has indicated that “minor deviations may occur due to permissible reliance on pre-existing state subdivision boundaries, and the importance of maintaining contiguity.”  See Chloris Lowe, Jr. v. Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature, et al., Order (Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment) CV 00-104 (HCN Tr. Ct., Mar. 30, 2001) at 13.  The Court went on to say that when redistricting scenarios are reviewed by the Nation’s Trial Court, their constitutionality will be determined in accordance with a reasonable application of such principles. 

Another factor the Legislature may utilize is the affinity of communities.  Again, the Nation’s Trial Court indicated that a legitimate consideration that could be relied upon to justify representation deviations would be “the historical affinity of communities, maintaining family affiliations, and recognizing rural and suburban demographic characteristics.”  See Chloris Lowe, Jr. v. Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature, et al., Order (Determining Constitutionality of the Proposed Redistricting/Reapportionment Scenarios) CV 00-104 (HCN Tr. Ct., Dec. 14, 2000) at 9.  This could mean, for instance, that different Ho-Chunk communities affiliate with each other more, even though they may live in two neighboring counties.  Maintaining the affinity of these communities could mean that a particular redistricting scenario should keep them within the same Legislative District. 

The Legislature may also select a redistricting scenario with deviation percentages that are based on legitimate considerations and rational policy pronouncements, such as the importance of sustaining Ho-Chunk culture, promoting traditions, and other notable goals held in common by members of the Nation.  The Trial Court of the Ho-Chunk Nation noted this factor during redistricting litigation in the year 2000.  See Chloris Lowe, Jr. v. Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature, et al., Order (Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment) CV 00-104 (HCN Tr. Ct., Nov. 13, 2000) at 13.  A related factor the Legislature may rely on is the governmental policy of sustaining an association and bond with the aboriginal homeland of Wisconsin.  See Chloris Lowe, Jr. v. Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature, et al., Order (Determining Constitutionality of the Proposed Redistricting/Reapportionment Scenarios) CV 00-104 (HCN Tr. Ct., Dec. 14, 2000) at 9.

As the Legislature moves toward selecting a final redistricting proposal, the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court has said that the Constitution does not impose a requirement that the Legislature use the best plan to promote the objective of one-person/one-vote representation, but any plan that furthers that objective.  It is for the Legislature to determine which of many choices may further the Constitutional requirement of one-person/one-vote representation. See Chloris Lowe, Jr. v. Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature, et al., SU 00-17 (HCN S. Ct., Mar. 13, 2001) at 6.
Look for the Legislature to approve a resolution in the near future that selects a final redistricting proposal that will be sent to the Ho-Chunk Nation Election Board, who then will schedule a Special Election on Redistricting to be held before the end of 2018.  

The Legislature would like to hear from tribal members regarding this stage of the process.  The scenarios are available online at, the Ho-Chunk Nation Legislative Facebook Page and the HCN Legislature Twitter Page (HCN Legislature@HCN_Legislature).  Please review the scenarios and provide feedback to the Legislative Office.  There will be a Special Election held later this year to select a new scenario.
Tribal members can provide feedback to the Ho-Chunk Nation Legislative Office at 715-284-9343 or by emailing the District Representative.  The email addresses for the District Representatives and their District Aides are provided.  We look forward to hearing from you.  Thank you for your time and attention.
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