US Supreme Court Punts Case Challenging Arkansas Congressional Map

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A case challenging Arkansas’ congressional districts will go back to the district court where the court will have to apply the new standards adopted in South Carolina’s recently decided racial gerrymandering case. After last month’s Supreme Court decision in the South Carolina case, this is the first racial gerrymandering case to be impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision. 

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in the South Carolina case, the plaintiffs in the case challenging Arkansas’ map will now have to reach a higher bar in order to bring a successful challenge to the state’s congressional map.

Throughout the 2020 redistricting cycle, Republicans used their map drawing power to strip Black voters of political influence, and Arkansas was no exception. Black voters challenged the state’s congressional map in court, but were not successful in getting the map blocked. 

In June 2023, Black voters — in a previously dismissed lawsuit challenging Arkansas’ congressional map — appealed their case to the Supreme Court after a three-judge panel found that the plaintiffs did not show that “race was the ‘predominant factor’ behind the adoption of Arkansas’s new congressional map.” Their lawsuit, which they filed back in March 2022, argued that the state’s congressional map violates the U.S. and Arkansas Constitutions as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Currently, voters cannot bring Section 2 claims in Arkansas or any state within the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — the only federal appeals court to explicitly remove private litigants’ ability to sue under Section 2. 

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.” 

Unlike the majority of cases appealed to the Supreme Court, the Court was required to issue a decision in this case since the plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the map under the 14th and 15th Amendments.  

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.