The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Arkansas, Law Office of Bryan L. Sells LLC, and Dechert LLP filed a federal lawsuit today challenging a new redistricting plan for the Arkansas State House of Representatives that would undermine the voting strength of Black Arkansans.
The case was filed on behalf of the Arkansas State Conference NAACP and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel. The lawsuit charges the proposed map, as currently drawn, denies Black Arkansans an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
New political maps are drawn as part of a once-in-a-decade redistricting process triggered by census data. They determine the allocation of political power, representation, and access to resources at every level of government for the next 10 years.
According to the lawsuit, the redistricting plan put forth by the 2021 Arkansas Board of Apportionment has the effect of diluting the voting strength of Black voters in Central Arkansas, the Upper Delta, the Lower Delta, and Southwest Arkansas. The Board of Apportionment should have drawn at least four additional Black-majority districts.
“The board’s maps substantially underrepresent Black Arkansans, and unnecessarily divide communities of interest that merit legislative representation,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “Arkansas has historically diluted the political power of Arkansas’ minority populations. If newly drawn maps aren’t updated to fairly represent all Arkansans, these communities will continue to face obstacles to meaningful participation in the political process.”
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act bans the drawing of legislative district lines that water down the voting strength of communities of color. In the last decade, the Black population in Arkansas has grown, yet the Board of Apportionment failed to craft district lines that would allow these new voters to elect their candidates of choice.
“If implemented, this redistricting plan would unequivocally and illegally weaken the political power of Black voters,” said Ceridwen Cherry, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “There is no legitimate justification for drawing maps that deny Black voters their voice in the political process.”
The lawsuit outlines Arkansas’ long history of official voting-related discrimination on the basis of race. The suit charges the new redistricting plan is the latest effort to limit Black voting strength.
The case, Arkansas State Conference NAACP v. Arkansas Board of Apportionment, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock.