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Federal judge dismisses Arkansas redistricting lawsuit

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Arkansas PBS
Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge preside over a meeting of the state Board of Apportionment on Oct. 29, 2021.

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit challenging Arkansas’ new state House districts after the Justice Department declined to intervene in the case.

U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky followed through on his promise to dismiss the suit shortly after the DOJ said it wouldn’t join the case as a plaintiff. Rudofsky last week said he was prepared to toss the case, but gave DOJ five days to intervene.

In last week’s decision, Rudofsky said groups challenging the state’s new House boundaries had a “strong merits case” but ruled that private groups couldn’t sue to claim violations of the federal Voting Rights Act.

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel and the Arkansas State Conference NAACP had filed a lawsuit challenging the new lines for the state’s 100 House districts and sought a preliminary inunction blocking them. The groups argued the state’s redistricting plan dilutes the influence of Arkansas’ Black voters.

The plan created 11 majority-Black districts, which the groups challenging the map argued was too few. They argued the state could have drawn 16 majority-Black districts to more closely mirror the state’s Black population.

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