Second suit challenges racial ‘gerrymandering’ in Arkansas’ congressional redistricting
Three Central Arkansas voters and a religious group filed another federal lawsuit on Tuesday challenging Arkansas’ new congressional district map.
The voters and the Christian Ministerial Alliance claim that Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District — which includes most of Central Arkansas – was racially gerrymandered.
The complaint — like a similar lawsuit filed last year by several state legislators and voters — says parts of Pulaski County were “cracked,” or separated from the 2nd Congressional District to split up a voting bloc.
The General Assembly in redrawing Arkansas’ congressional districts in 2020 replaced a predominantly Black area of Pulaski County in the 2nd District with predominantly white Cleburne County. Previously, the entirety of Pulaski County was in the 2nd Congressional District and Cleburne was in the 1st District.
Pulaski County is now divided into three different congressional districts. This split was unnecessary and goes against conventional redistricting principles, the plaintiffs said.
“Race was the predominant factor in creating Arkansas’s Second Congressional District in the 2021 Redistricting Plan, intentionally singling out Black voters for unequal treatment and dilution of their electoral power. This violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” the lawsuit states.
The Arkansas General Assembly redrew Arkansas’ congressional district boundaries in 2021 following the decennial U.S. Census. The Arkansas Board of Apportionment, which includes the governor, attorney general and secretary of state, also redrew state legislative lines.
Former Gov. Asa Hutchinson refused to sign the congressional redistricting legislation, expressing concerns about its impact on minority population. However, he also didn’t veto it, allowing the plan to become law without his signature.
The lawsuit points to the Republican governor’s concerns and asks Judge D. P. Marshall Jr., chief U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas, to declare the redistricting plan unconstitutional and passed with discriminatory intent. It also asks Marshall to order a new congressional map before the 2024 election.
“Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law other than the judicial relief sought here,” the suit states. “The failure to preliminarily and permanently enjoin enforcement of the 2021 Redistricting Plan will irreparably harm Plaintiffs by subjecting them to intentionally racially discriminatory districts for the rest of this decade.”
The new case is the fourth challenging Arkansas’ 2021 redistricting process.
Two have been dismissed — a state court challenge to the congressional map and a federal lawsuit challenging the new state legislative districts.
Tuesday’s suit and the federal lawsuit brought by several state lawmakers and Central Arkansas voters challenging the congressional map are ongoing.