Arkansas Redistricting Cases:  the 1990s

Turner v. State784 F. Supp. 553 (E.D. Ark. 1991), aff'd 504 U.S. 952 (1992) (mem.)

In Turner v. State the court addressed several issues.  The first issue was whether the redistricted congressional districts resulted in vote dilution.  The court found that the black voters challenging the congressional districts failed to establish that the white majority voted sufficiently as a bloc to enable it to usually defeat the minority's preferred candidate.  The court further found with respect to this issue that the black voters were proposing a remedy of packing the black voters into a single district where they could not, by hypothesis, elect a representative of their own choosing, while fracturing and reducing the number of blacks in adjacent districts.  The second issue was whether the redistricting violated the black voters' Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment rights.  The court found that the black voters did not prove that, regardless of legislative intent, the legislation had the effect of discriminating against black voters or diluting or diminishing their influence.  The court also stated that states are not required by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to take affirmative action during the redistricting process to ensure that a congressional district is created with a maximum percentage of black residents.

Harvey v. Clinton308 Ark. 546, 826 S.W.2d 236 (1992)

In Harvey v. Clinton the court addressed the issue of whether the Arkansas Board of Apportionment acted arbitrarily in drawing multi-member districts for the state house.  The court held that the use of multi-member districts has never been held to be unconstitutional per se, and that the judicial branch cannot impose its judgment on the executive branch solely because the courts favor the use of single-member districts.  Moreover, the court held that the report by the Board of Apportionment was not arbitrary, and thus unconstitutional, simply because it recognized the preference of local communities to have multi-member districts.

West v. Clinton786 F. Supp. 803 (W.D. Ark. 1992)

In West v. Clinton the issue was whether a multi-member house district violated § 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  The court held that even if an influence claim existed under § 2, the aggregated minority percentage that would exist in a single-member district was 29 percent and therefore the minority electorate would not be numerous enough to elect a representative without non-minority help.  Furthermore, the court stated that there was no proof offered by the defendant that the minority electorate would have enough help to elect a different representative or that same representative would behave differently in a relevant manner with the help of the non-minority voters.

Jeffers v. Tucker847 F. Supp. 655 (E.D. Ark. 1994)

In Jeffers v. Tucker the court addressed the issue of voter dilution in the legislative plan.  The court stated that a plaintiff seeking to establish a violation of § 2 must satisfy three preconditions set out in Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30 (1986).  The court held that while the plaintiffs established that the minority group was politically cohesive and that the white majority voting bloc enabled it to defeat the minority's preferred candidate, the plaintiff did not establish that the minority group was geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district.  To create a minority district, the lines would extend "long, slender fingers deeply to the west from the River" and therefore would not satisfy the compactness requirement of Gingles.


 State Contacts
 
Marty Garrity 
Bureau of Legislative Research 
State Capitol, Room 315 
Little Rock, AR 72201 
501/682-1937 voice 
501/682-1936 fax 
MartyG@arkleg.state.ar.us 
Donna Davis
Bureau of Legislative Research
State Capitol, Room 315
Little Rock, AR 72201
501/682-1937 voice
501/682-1936 fax
donna@arkleg.state.ar.us