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A federal judge in Arkansas said on Thursday he plans to dismiss a lawsuit claiming the new state House redistricting map reduces the influence of Black voters unless the U.S. Department of Justice joins the suit, according to a report.
“After a thorough analysis of the text and structure of the Voting Rights Act, and a painstaking journey through relevant caselaw, the Court has concluded that this case may be brought only by the Attorney General of the United States,” Judge Lee Rudofsky said, Politico reported.
He added that there was a “strong merits case” that some of the redrawn lines violate the Voting Rights Act but he said he planned to toss it unless the Justice Department becomes a plaintiff within a week.
The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU on behalf of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel and the Arkansas State Conference NAACP on Dec 29, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Secretary of State John Thurston, all Republicans, are named in the lawsuit. The three make up the Board of Apportionment, which draws the restricting map.
“I am extremely pleased with the district court’s decision effectively dismissing the plaintiffs’ frivolous request to order new House district maps for the 2022 election,” Rutledge said Thursday, according to Politico. “Arkansans can now move forward with choosing their elected representatives.”
The lawsuit claims that under the new lines, only 11 out of 100 House districts in the state are Black majority even though 15.5% of eligible voters in Arkansas are Black.
On Feb. 8, Rudofsky, calling himself a “lowly district judge,” expressed frustration over federal law that says race should be a consideration along with other factors like not splitting up communities in newly drawn districts.
“It’s very hard for me to figure out what these courts mean when they say don’t take race into account a lot but take race into account,” he said, according to the Gazette. “I understand what they’ve said, but it sounds a whole lot more like a system we’ve set up to say something and then not really do what we’re saying and I don’t know how to resolve that … I’m just a lowly district judge, and I don’t get to change what the Supreme Court has said. But it strikes me that there really doesn’t seem to be a lot of room between don’t let race predominate but take race into account.”
Lawsuits over redistricting maps have been brought in several states.