Court Opinion Held State Legislature Map Partisan – “Regrettable” But Not “Unconstitutional”

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 105 views 

Last week, a federal court rejected a lawsuit from Sen. Jack Crumbly that claimed the State Senate district in which he ran in was drawn in a racial discriminatory manner.  But down in the opinion was some interesting observations on what the court admitted was a map drawn for partisan purposes.  From the opinion, emphasis mine…

Third, the record also reveals an additional reason for the resulting Senate map – partisan politics. Governor Beebe specifically testified that his vote to approve the redistricting map could be characterized as “a partisan vote.” Similarly, Attorney General McDaniel testified that the Board’s vote “was certainly delineated along party lines,” although he claimed that he did not “vote with the Governor because he is a Democrat and I am a Democrat.” As to Secretary Martin’s final proposed Senate plan, Governor Beebe candidly admitted that he discarded most of Secretary Martin’s suggestions. Attorney General McDaniel also confirmed that “virtually no” consideration was given to Secretary Martin’s Senate map. Even Senator Crumbly testified that he saw Governor Beebe and Attorney General McDaniel – not Secretary Martin – as the big decision-makers on the Board of Apportionment.”

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The record evidence reflects that the new senate district was constructed primarily to conform to the political priorities of Governor Beebe and, secondarily, Attorney General McDaniel. Governor Beebe prioritized reuniting Crittenden County, and Attorney General McDaniel deferred to his preference. Senate District 24’s BV AP [black voting age population] was on-but well down-the list of their redistricting concerns. The plaintiffs have failed to show that the diminution in BV AP of the new Senate District 24 is the result of any collusive racial animus of the Board. Instead, the evidence shows that the diminution more likely was an unintended consequence of preferred political concerns leading to comparative disregard for the Jeffers cases’ history and holdings. This may be regrettable, but it is not unconstitutional.

Of course, this is nothing we all did not know, but it is a stark contrast with the statements from the Governor’s office shortly after the maps were approved.

The court adds this interesting statement in its conclusion…

Because the Board acted within the bounds of the law, those concerns are for the voters of Arkansas, not for the courts of the United States, to address.