WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, July 25, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the methods used to elect judges and justices to the Arkansas Court of Appeals and Arkansas Supreme Court respectively.
In Arkansas, state Supreme Court justices are elected by the entire state via an at-large method and Court of Appeals judges are elected by combined single and multi-member districts. These systems, the lawsuit alleged, deny Black voters the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.
Today’s decision stems from a 2019 lawsuit brought by the Christian Ministerial Alliance, Arkansas Community Institute and Black voters who alleged that the methods of electing judges to the Arkansas Court of Appeals and Arkansas Supreme Court violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by diluting the voting power of Black voters in the state.
Today, a federal judge ruled against the plaintiffs after finding that they failed to satisfy the necessary conditions to bring a successful Section 2 claim. Notably, this lawsuit was one of the many that could continue under the current Section 2 framework after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Section 2 of the VRA Allen v. Milligan.
The court concluded that the defendants “have a powerful interest in adhering to the State’s current system for electing the Arkansas Supreme Court.” The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ suggested remedies and held that the “Court lacks the power to order that radical change in how Arkansas conducts its judicial elections.”
This decision is a loss for voters, particularly Black Arkansans, who according to the complaint, are denied “an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice.”