Second lawsuit challenges Arkansas congressional redistricting for Pulaski County racial gerrymander
🚨BREAKING: Black voters file lawsuit challenging new Arkansas congressional map for diluting black voters’ voting strength. @EliasLawGroup https://t.co/wAybXt1VtO
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) March 21, 2022
Another one trial, this one in state rather than federal court, was filed to challenge the Arkansas Congressional Redistricting Plan as unconstitutional due to the racial division of Pulaski County into three separate congressional districts.
The filing was announced on Twitter last night by Mark Elias, a Democratic Party election lawyer who has led the democracy file and its challenges to Republican Gerrymander and vote-suppression tactics across the country.
The lawsuit does not yet appear on the Pulaski County Circuit Court website, although Elias distributed a copy with his tweet, so it is not yet clear which judge will take the case. UPDATE: The case is now registered and assigned to Judge Herb Wright.
The lawsuit, which you can read here, is similar in many ways to the federal lawsuit filed March 7. That lawsuit alleged constitutional violations as well as a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act for the Republican legislature’s plan that moved 13 majority black precincts. in Pulaski County from the 2nd District to the 1st and 4th Congressional Districts while replacing that lost population with virtually all-white Cleburne County. The goal was to dilute the black vote in Pulaski County, which has overwhelmingly opposed Republican congressional candidates most recently Rep. French Hill Republican.
The lawsuit against Secretary of State John Thurston and the state Board of Election Commissioners has these plaintiffs: Deborah Springer Suttlar, Justice of the Peace of Pulaski, Justice Green (whose JP district was split between three congressional districts) , State Representative Fred Love (his home district also divided into three parts), Kwami Abdul-Bey, Clarice Abdul-Bey and Paula Withers.
Like the federal lawsuit, the state lawsuit delves into a long history of diluting the black vote in Arkansas, particularly by refusing to join the counties of Pulaski and Jefferson, which are contiguous, in a single congressional district. The 2021 plan, according to the suit, “even more systematically slices and dices black communities in Arkansas, particularly in Pulaski County.”
Arkansas is the only state with a black population above 10% that has never elected a black person to Congress, the lawsuit says. He notes, as did the federal prosecution, that Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson refused to sign the redistricting law due to its obvious racial intent. In remarks to reporters, he said the legislature should not have diluted minority voting power in Pulaski.
The suit seeks an order that the 2021 map is unconstitutional for violating the equal rights and free election clauses of the state Constitution. She also asks that the plan be prohibited and that the court order the adoption of a “valid” plan.
The costume highlights the “cracking” of Pulaski.
The lawsuit goes on to note that the replacement population for the 21,000 suppressed black voters is from Cleburne County, which has a total black population of 92.
Is state or federal court a better place for this challenge? Either way, the appeals boards that decide — the Arkansas Supreme Court or the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — are tilted heavily in the Republican direction these days.
In state court, plaintiffs will not face the unprecedented hurdle named by Trump and Federalist Society Judge Lee Rudofsky thrown in a lawsuit filed under the Voting Rights Act. He overturned more than half a century of U.S. Supreme Court precedent by saying only the attorney general, not private citizens, could sue under federal law. This law will not be an issue in the state trial, only state constitutional safeguards, which haven’t provided much protection from the Arkansas Supreme Court in recent times.