Federal Court Dismisses Challenge to Arkansas Congressional Map

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — On Thursday, May 25, a three-judge panel dismissed a challenge to Arkansas’ congressional map drawn with 2020 census data. The lawsuit, Simpson v. Hutchinson, brought by Black voters, alleged that Arkansas’ congressional map constituted an unconstitutional racial gerrymander in violation of the 14th and 15th amendments and diluted the voting strength of Black voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA)

In yesterday’s order dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims, a unanimous three-judge panel held 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.” 

Earlier this month, a state court in Arkansas dismissed a separate challenge, Suttlar v. Thurston, to the state’s congressional map after finding that the trial court lacked the authority to decide the case and that the challenge should have been filed in the Arkansas Supreme Court. 

Taken together, the dismissal of both the federal court and state court challenges to Arkansas’ congressional maps is a loss for voters. These decisions specifically harm Black voters in Arkansas who argued that the congressional map had the “discriminatory effect of racially gerrymandering or ‘cracking’ communities of Black voters in order to reduce or eliminate the potential and effectiveness of such communities of voters to elect candidates and pass issues that they favored.”

Despite the dismissal of both Simpson and Suttlar, a challenge to Arkansas’ congressional map still remains ongoing. On May 23, the Christian Ministerial Alliance and a group of Black residents of Pulaski County, Arkansas filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state’s congressional map. 

In the latest challenge to Arkansas’ congressional map, the plaintiffs argue that the state’s 2nd Congressional District is a racial gerrymander and was enacted with discriminatory intent in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments. 

They contend that Pulaski County, home to the state capital of Little Rock, was divided “into not two but three separate Congressional Districts…slic[ing] through the heart of longstanding Black communities of interest…with almost surgical precision.” This division will “dilute[] the power of the state’s largest community of Black voters” in a “textbook case of ‘cracking’ a minority community to suppress its political voice,” the plaintiffs argue. 

In the lawsuit filed earlier this week, the plaintiffs ask the court to block the map, order the creation of a map compliant with the U.S. Constitution and place Arkansas under Section 3 preclearance.

Learn more about Simpson v. Hutchinson here.

Learn more about Suttlar v. Thurston here.

Learn more about racial gerrymandering and vote dilution here.

Learn more about Christian Ministerial Alliance v. Thurston here.