WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, June 12, Black voters in a previously dismissed lawsuit challenging Arkansas’ congressional map appealed their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The lawsuit, which was filed back in March 2022 on behalf of Black voters in Arkansas, argues that the state’s congressional map violates the U.S. and Arkansas Constitutions and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
The plaintiffs specifically allege that Black voters in Pulaski County, home to the state capital of Little Rock, were divided across three congressional districts rather than kept together in one district, the 2nd Congressional District. According to the plaintiffs, this was done “to discourage the incentive of the Black voters of the area to vote, and to reduce the significance of their votes.”
On May 25, 2023, a three-judge panel dismissed the lawsuit after finding that “[t]he allegations do not create a plausible inference that race was the ‘predominant factor’ behind the adoption of Arkansas’s new congressional map.” Now, the plaintiffs are appealing this dismissal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Unlike the majority of cases appealed to the Supreme Court, the Court must issue a decision in this case. Since the plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of Arkansas’ congressional map under the 14th and 15th Amendments — in addition to the VRA — federal law requires a three-judge panel to hear the claims instead of a single district court judge. Any decision from a three-judge panel is then appealable directly to the Supreme Court — and the Supreme Court has to accept the appeal and issue a decision in the case. The Court could either affirm the lower court’s dismissal, reverse the lower court’s dismissal or hear the case in full.
This lawsuit is first the case with Section 2 claims to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court since the Court issued its landmark ruling in Allen v. Milligan. There are now 32 active cases with Section 2 claims pending in federal courtrooms across the country.