Supreme Court Reinstates Racial Gerrymander Lawsuit in Arkansas

Supreme Court Reinstates Racial Gerrymander Lawsuit in Arkansas
The Supreme Court in Washington on April 2, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 3 revived a lawsuit contesting the boundaries of a congressional district in Arkansas that challengers say illegally diluted the voting strength of the black community.

The ruling comes days after the court rejected a claim that a congressional district in South Carolina was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

The ruling, which returns the case to a lower court, comes after the Supreme Court made it harder last month to pursue racial gerrymandering claims.

The lead petitioner was Jackie Williams Simpson, a black voter. The respondent was John Thurston, Arkansas’s Republican secretary of state.

The decision sends the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, which previously dismissed the lawsuit on May 25, 2023.

A three-judge panel of the district court rejected the challengers’ argument that the electoral map violated Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act. Section 2 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in a large language minority group. Last year, Alabama asked the Supreme Court to weaken Section 2. The court declined to do so, holding 5–4 in Allen v. Milligan that the state’s electoral map for congressional elections was racially discriminatory and violated the VRA.

The ruling comes after the Supreme Court upheld on a vote of 6–3 a congressional redistricting plan in South Carolina. In the May 23 decision the court rejected the claim that the new electoral map was a product of race-based discrimination.

The case was Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP.

The court majority held that challengers failed to demonstrate that race was the main factor in the redistricting, as opposed to more routine partisan considerations. The Supreme Court frowns on racial gerrymandering as constitutionally suspect but has adopted a hands-off attitude toward partisan gerrymandering.

The seat in South Carolina’s First Congressional District is held by Republican Rep. Nancy Mace.

In Simpson v. Thurston, the challengers argued that when the Arkansas General Assembly drafted a new electoral map for the state in 2021, it took “the  exceptional  measure of  splitting  a community of 140,000 Blacks from a close-knit community in the southern border of the Second Congressional District in Pulaski County, Arkansas, into, not two, but three congressional districts, while  simultaneously transferring the virtually all-White Cleburne County into the northern part of the Second Congressional District.”

The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the federal district court “for further consideration in light of Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP.”

Lawyers call this process GVR—grant, vacate, and remand.

This is a developing story. This article will be updated.

From The Epoch Times

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