LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A third lawsuit is now challenging the new Arkansas U.S. House map, claiming the reasons behind redistricting are racially motivated.
The state’s 2021 congressional district map divides Pulaski County into three districts, out of four. Under the previous district lines, that entire county was solely in the 2nd district.
Secretary of State John Thurston and six members of Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners are listed as plaintiffs in the case.
The lawsuit has been filed by three Pulaski County voters and the Christian Ministerial Alliance. It specifically calls this a case of “racial gerrymandering” and “discriminating against black voters” in the 2nd district. For those reasons, the challenge claims the map is unconstitutional.
According to the lawsuit, 41,000 residents in Pulaski County who live in predominantly Black areas were moved out of the district and replaced by approximately 25,000 people from a predominantly white county.
The suit also pointed back to the 2nd congressional district race between former State Sen. Joyce Elliott and current U.S. Congressman French Hill back in 2020. Voters in that election were voting under the original district lines.
Ultimately, Hill won re-election to his Arkansas seat that he has held since 2015. Though the lawsuit notes that it was a competitive race and fresh on the state legislature’s mind when the new map was drawn up.
Elliott, at the time, said she hoped to be the first black person elected to Congress in Arkansas. The lawsuit said if this map is not thrown out through the legal system, electing a Black person for Congress could be even less likely in the future.
Back when the map was in the legislative process, supporters said it made sense because Pulaski County is in the middle of the state, and it helps limit the number of counties divided.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is representing the plaintiffs in this case. The team of attorneys were unavailable for comment Wednesday, though a spokesperson emphasized that the lawsuit is not about politics, but equal opportunity.
Currently, Republicans hold every U.S. Congress seat for Arkansas, and make up most of the state legislature.
A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office said the legal staff is reviewing the lawsuit but they do not have a comment at this time.