LITTLE ROCK – This evening, arguments ended in a federal lawsuit challenging the newly proposed legislative maps by the Board of Apportionment (BOA) as a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). While they await a ruling on the maps, the ACLU of Arkansas and civil rights organizations continue to demand that maps comply with the VRA and that the Board uphold their promise of a fair and transparent map drawing process.
“In their current form, these maps would undermine the voting strength of Black Arkansans and alter how our communities are represented for the next decade. Census data clearly shows us that in the past decade, the Black population in Arkansas grew, while the white population shrank, but the BOA nevertheless decreased the number of black districts,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director. “We are very grateful to the Arkansas NAACP and Arkansas Policy Panel as well as all of the partners and witnesses who are fighting this fight. We won’t stop fighting for fair representation to ensure that everyone's voice is heard and all of our diverse communities can thrive for the next 10 years.”
Earlier this month the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Arkansas, Law Office of Bryan L. Sells LLC, and Dechert LLP filed the federal lawsuit challenging a new redistricting plan for the Arkansas State House of Representatives. The case was filed on behalf of the Arkansas State Conference NAACP and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel. The lawsuit charges that the proposed map, as currently drawn, denies Black Arkansans an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.
“The adopted House map denies Black Arkansans their voice in the political process,” said Jonathan Topaz, staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “Arkansas has a long history of official voting-related discrimination on the basis of race and the underrepresentation of Black voters is a chronic problem in the state. The adopted House plan is the latest glaring effort to limit the voting strength of Black Arkansas.”
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. Based on census data the Board of Apportionment should have drawn at least five additional Black-majority districts and there should be 16 majority Black seats.
The case was argued in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock.