Secretary of State Mark Martin (R) was the first member of the Board of Apportionment to take the stand in an expected week-long trial challenging the legality of black majority voting districts.
The board met last year to redraw State House and Senate boundaries under legislative redistricting mandated by the decennial census. With population losses in the heavily-black Delta, the region saw a reduction in the number of House seats, but not Senate seats although percentages of African-American residents slipped.
State Sen. Jack Crumbly (D-Widener), who is African-American, is challenging the redrawn lines of Senate District 24 claiming the board diluted its black majority voting age population from 58% to 53%. Crumbly filed his lawsuit after he drew an opponent, Rep. Keith Ingram (D-West Memphis), who is white.
John Lyon with our content partner, the Arkansas News Bureau, reports:
Martin, the lone Republican on the three-member Board of Apportionment, testified that Democrats Gov. Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel approved House and Senate maps proposed by Beebe without giving any consideration to Martin’s proposed maps or to concerns he had about the governor’s maps.
“It was pretty much a situation of stepping out of the way of a freight train. It had been made perfectly clear that my input was not going to be considered,” he said.
The maps were approved at the board’s third and final meeting.
Martin said the Senate map he proposed would have given District 24 a black majority voting age population of 56 percent. Both Martin’s and Beebe’s Senate maps kept the number of black-majority districts at four, the current number.
Martin also testified that among the House maps drawn up by his office was one that would have increased the number of black-majority districts from 13 to 15. The map the board approved lowers the number from 13 to 11.
The secretary of state acknowledged that under his House map, six districts would have had a black majority of under 53 percent and three would have had a black majority under 52 percent.
You can read more at this link. Gov. Mike Beebe (D) is expected to testify in the trial today.