Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Four lawsuits challenge Arkansas election limits

on the web

See document here:

The Simpson lawsuit:

Statement of Interest:

Suttler lawsuit:


Ministerial Coalition Suite:

Four pending lawsuits fighting political boundaries in Arkansas are making their way through state and federal courts, but officials say go ahead and vote early in the May 24 election because they don’t expect courts to make an immediate change. Will order

Three have been reintroduced to congressional or legislative district boundaries after the 2020 US Census. The fourth relates nonpartisan judicial districts to the state’s Supreme Court and its Court of Appeal.

Those cases are:

• Arkansas NAACP v. Arkansas Board of Apportionment. The matter is before the US 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. The plaintiffs claim that the state has reduced the voting power of Black Arkansas by reducing the number of State House districts in which they form the voter majority. The plaintiffs demand more majority-minority districts.

• Jackie Simpson v Sarkar Asa Hutchinson. Filed in federal court in Little Rock and approved for hearing by a three-judge panel there. No date of hearing has been set. The state legislature cut off black voters in eastern and southern Pulaski Counties from the Second Congressional District. The Legislature then divided those voters between the first congressional district and the fourth. This intentionally dispersed them to reduce their voting power, the plaintiffs claim.

• Deborah Suttler v. Secretary of State John Thurston. Originally filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, but transferred to federal court. The case also claims that the Legislature unfairly targeted Pulaski County black voters in its redistribution of Congress.

• Christian Ministerial Coalition vs. State of Arkansas. Filed in 2019, the lawsuit in federal court ended on Monday. The decision is pending. The plaintiffs seek a majority-minority district to elect judges of the state’s Supreme Court and two such districts for state appeals court judges.

A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office said none of these matters should affect the May 24 primary election or the nonpartisan judicial elections held on the same day. Early voting has started on Monday. Spokesman Kevin Niehaus said ballots have already been sent to voters currently living overseas, such as US service personnel, and counties have begun printing ballots.

Both Gary Sullivan, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and Dustin McDaniel, who served as the state’s attorney general during the eventual rescheduling of the state’s legislative and congressional districts, agreed that the primary election would not make any major changes. was very close to the possibility.

The ACLU represents the plaintiffs in the 8th Circuit case, which likely won’t end before the November 8 general election, Sullivan said. He said any remedy ordered by the court would be effective for the 2024 election if the plaintiffs prevail in that case.

“Court orders are proactive, not reactive,” McDaniel said.

He said that in election matters, the courts instead of manipulating election results try to prevent problems in the next election and for good reason.

“For example, people on Third and Fourth Streets shouldn’t have voted in a particular election and should have cast their vote,” McDaniel said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “You’ve deprived those voters. Their votes didn’t count in any election. You can’t hand them anywhere else because you don’t know how they would have voted for a different candidate in another district election.

“You must be building confidence in the election process at a time when a lot of people have already questioned it,” he said.

make it a federal matter

Each state gets its share of 435 US House seats. Seats are reassigned after every US census that takes place every 10 years. Census results showed that Arkansas was entitled to four US House seats.

The state legislature sets the boundaries of the US House district and must make them as close to the same population as appropriate. The need for equal representation in US Supreme Court cases, enshrined in the US Constitution, was clarified.

The Simpson lawsuit claims that splitting Pulaski County removed about 23,000 residents of that county from another congressional district. According to the Simpson suit, which was filed on March 7, most of the people evicted from the second district are black.

“To adjust for the loss of that population of approximately 23,000 individuals from the Second District, the bills annexed the entire Cleburne County to the extreme northern boundary of the Second District,” the suit states. According to the official 2020 census, there are only 69 black residents out of a population of 24,711 individuals in Cleburne County, named after Confederate General Patrick Cleburne.”

“The black vote in Congressional District 2 has, in recent years, become highly influential in congressional elections,” Simpson’s suit claims. “In the November 2020 general election for the Second District Congress, Joyce Elliott, a black educator and state senator for Senate District 31 (constituting a portion of Pulaski County), received 44.6% of the vote over the incumbent Congressman. [and] 55.3% of banker French Hill,” according to the suit.

According to the lawsuit, as a result of redistribution, their interests on minorities and national policies are no longer important considerations for the Congressmen representing the district.

The governor signed off on Congressional boundary bills without letting them become law. The bill came into effect from January 14.

“I am concerned about the impact of the redistribution plan on the minority population,” he explained. “While the percentage of the minority population for three of the four congressional districts is not much different from the current percentage, the removal of minority areas in Pulaski County into two separate congressional districts raises concern.”

Hutchinson is an attorney who once served as a former US attorney for the federal Department of Justice.

Former state attorney general Steve Clark said that when a state’s own chief executive expresses doubts about the constitutionality of a measure, a federal judge will look into it. Clark, who is now president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, compared the situation to a 1981 case defended by his office. That case involved a state law that required creation science to be taught in Arkansas schools. Creation science claims that the evolution of life shows evidence of divine guidance. Then-government Frank White publicly stated that he did not know whether the bill was constitutional.

White said he didn’t know. Hutchinson expressed skepticism, Clark said.

“It leaves you far behind in a court case,” he said.

The state lost the science of creation.

The state responded with a motion to dismiss the Simpson suit. The petitioners have till Monday to file their reply. No test date is set.

The plan’s defenders in the Legislature said during the debate that some counties would have to be split to meet the requirement for equal district populations. Pulaski County is the largest county in the state and is located in central Arkansas. Proponents argued that it was better to divide one large county than several smaller ones.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was granted permission to file a brief in the case to a friend of the court.

“By arguing a racial gerrymandering claim based solely on an alleged Republican political advantage, the plaintiffs are effectively arguing that any map that is not unlawful to benefit Democratic candidates must be illegal, ” reads part of the brief submitted on April 15.

The Suttler case, filed on March 21, also argues that the second district was redrawn to deport a large group of black voters.

The suit claimed, “Arkansas is the only state in the country with more than 10% of the black population that has never elected a black representative to Congress.” “It’s not a mistake. The Congressional map of Arkansas has long been designed to thwart the ability of black voters to choose candidates of their choice.”

legislative litigation

Arkansas has 100 state assembly seats and 35 state senate seats. After each U.S. census, the state redraws the legislative district boundaries to ensure, as appropriate, that each House district has an equal number of people. Similarly, the state draws 35 Senate districts. Those boundaries are drawn by the state’s board of apportionment, which includes the current governor, attorney general, and secretary of state.

The Arkansas NAACP filed the lawsuit on December 29 in federal court in Little Rock. Census figures show that Arkansas’ black population makes up 16.5% of the total. It is possible, the suit claims, “to attract 16 reasonably compact majority-black districts in which black voters have a meaningful opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.”

The court filing includes a map proposed by the plaintiffs with 16 such districts that are represented by the ACLU. The suit asked the federal court in Little Rock to adopt its map.

US District Judge Lee P. Rudofsky dismissed the case in her February 17 court order, ruling that the plaintiffs had no right to sue.

“Today’s order simply means that the Attorney General of the United States must be the plaintiff in such enforcement action,” he said in the ruling.

Rudofsky did not address the merits of the case, or the lack thereof.

Sullivan, a plaintiff’s attorney in the case, said a ruling that only the US Department of Justice could sue to protect voters’ rights would be a serious blow to voting rights cases, not just those in Arkansas. According to case documents, US attorneys for the Eastern District of Arkansas agree with him.

The US Attorney’s office in Little Rock filed a letter of interest in the matter on January 28. Courts have never denied private citizens standing to sue Congress over redistribution under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The letter cites the 1969 US Supreme Court case Allen v. State Board of Elections, which sued election boards in Mississippi and Virginia. In that case, the court noted that the U.S. Attorney General has a limited staff “who may not always ‘be able to quickly uncover new rules and enactments passed at various levels of state government’.” The Allen case allowed a private citizen to sue. The state election boards of Mississippi and Virginia under the Civil Rights Act regarding voting procedures, but the case did not involve redistribution.

state judicial case

The ministerial coalition filed its suit on June 10, 2019. It claims that the Voting Rights Act requires district elections when such elections would help ensure black representation. All seven state Supreme Court justice positions are elected statewide.

The suit claims, “No black candidate has ever been elected to any office in Arkansas, although black candidates have run for various statewide positions.”

The Court of Appeal has 12 judges elected from seven districts, five of whom elect two members. They also serve eight-year terms and can run for re-election.

Defense attorneys brought in John Alford, a professor of political science at Rice University, to testify at trial. Alford testified that voting in Arkansas is more polarized along party lines than along racial or ethnic lines. Black voters in Arkansas split their votes equally among candidates regardless of race in nonpartisan judicial elections, he testified.

Dylan Jacobs, an attorney in the state attorney general’s office, argued in the lawsuit that the relief sought by the plaintiffs is “unprecedented.” Jacobs said that large-scale Supreme Court districts are common in states that elect High Court judges and that no state has ever needed to move largely to single-member district elections in those castes. .

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