Judges dismiss lawsuit challenging new US House map in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A three-judge panel on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit challenging Arkansas' 2021 U.S. House map, ruling that opponents of the new congressional boundaries had not proven race motivated the Republican-led Legislature's redistricting plan.

The lawsuit tossed by the federal panel claimed the redrawn map violated the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act by moving thousands of predominantly Black voters out of the 2nd District in central Arkansas, which includes Little Rock. Those voters were split between the state’s 1st and 4th congressional districts.

“The allegations do not create a plausible inference that race was the ‘predominant factor’ behind the adoption of Arkansas’s new congressional map,” the judges' ruling on Thursday said.

Republican Attorney General Tim Griffin praised the court's decision.

“Today, a panel of three federal judges dismissed a challenge to Arkansas’s congressional districts and confirms what we already knew: Our congressional districts do not violate the United States Constitution and are legal," Griffin said in a statement.

Opponents of the map have argued that the state Legislature diluted the influence of Black voters by splitting up the 2nd District. Republicans hold all four of the state's U.S. House seats, and Democrats have tried unsuccessfully in recent years to flip the 2nd District.

The ruling is the second in recent weeks dismissing a lawsuit challenging Arkansas' congressional redistricting. A Pulaski County judge earlier this month dismissed another lawsuit over the new House boundaries, ruling the complaint should have been filed with the state Supreme Court.

A similar lawsuit over the House map was filed in federal court earlier this week.

The three-judge panel in Thursday's ruling had dismissed part of the lawsuit in October, but allowed the plaintiffs in the case to file an amended challenge. The residents challenging the redistricting plan include two Black state legislators.

Richard Mays, an attorney for the residents, said he was disappointed in the ruling and was considering appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. Mays said he disagreed with the standard the court used to dismiss the complaint.

“If that is the standard, it will pretty much nullify any realistic attempt to set aside these redistricting acts unless there’s some admission in writing by the people who enact the legislation that they intend to racially discriminate against people,” Mays said.