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State sued over voting districts
Lines said to dilute blacks’ clout
By Sarah D. Wire
This article was published today at 5:03 a.m.
LITTLE ROCK — A lawsuit filed Monday asks the federal court in Little Rock to block Arkansas’ new state Senate district lines and make the state draw the boundaries to better serve black voters in northeastern Arkansas.
The suit contends the districts’ boundaries dilute the likelihood that blacks in District 24 will be able to elect a candidate of their choice.
The Senate district lines approved last summer violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1973 as well as the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the suit contends. The state’s district boundaries have been challenged in court each time they have been drawn since the 1940s, including several cases over diluting the black vote.
The new case, 2:12 CV16JLH, Future Mae Jeffers v. Mike Beebe, was assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge J. Leon Holmes.
The districts have already been put into effect by the secretary of state. Candidates can begin filing for all 35 state Senate seats for the 2012 election on Feb. 23.
The lines were approved July 29, 2011, by the state Board of Apportionment on a 2-1 vote. The board consists of Gov. Mike Beebe, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Secretary of State Mark Martin. Martin opposed the plan. The board draws new boundaries for state House and Senate districts after each decennial U.S. census. The state’s current configuration is 100 House members, 35 senators.
The state population grew 9.1 percent in the 2000-10 decade. The number of black Arkansans dropped from 15.58 percent of the population in 2000 to 15.33 percent in 2010.
All three board members are defendants in the suit.
“There were threats of lawsuits by everybody in the world,” Beebe said. “Somebody always sues over some part of redistricting. It happens every 10 years, so it’s not a surprise.”
Beebe, a former attorney general, referred questions about the allegations to McDaniel, whose office generally provides the defense if the state is sued. McDaniel spokesman Aaron Sadler said the attorney general is reviewing the lawsuit.
“The board adhered to legally sound redistricting principles, and the statewide maps adopted by the board represent those principles,” Sadler said.
Martin’s spokesman Alex Reed said Martin won’t comment on the suit until he has reviewed it.
The suit states that the board members “drew that Senate plan with the intent and effect of diluting the voting strength of African American voters in northeastern Arkansas and denying them an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the Senate.”
It focused on the 24th District. The district has a black voting-age population of 52.88 percent. The plaintiff’s attorney, James Valley, said that about 3 percent of that population is either incarcerated in prison in the district or on probation or parole and cannot legally vote.The total black population of the district, which includes those who live in the district but are not old enough to vote, is 57.05 percent.
The suit states that a black voting-age population of 53 percent isn’t high enough.
“History has shown that a [black voting age population] of significantly less than 60 percent is not sufficient to permit African American voters to elect a candidate of their choice,” it states, citing the 1988 case Smith v. Clinton. “It is widely understood that minorities must have something more than a mere majority even of voting age population in order to have a reasonable opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”
The district includes all of Crittenden County and parts of Cross, Lee, Phillips and St. Francis counties.
The suit states that the board diluted black voting strength by placing about 14,000 people from Crittenden County into District 24 and removing heavily black population areas.
The seat is currently held by Sen. Jack Crumbly, D-Widener.The district bore a different number and contained less of Crittenden and Phillips counties when he was elected. He has said he plans to run for reelection in what now is District 24. Crumbly, who is black, is a plaintiff in the suit. He said by phone that the other plaintiffs asked him to join the suit because he had pushed for a higher percentage of black people of voting age in the redrawn district.
Beebe said Crumbly came to the board with his concerns.
“He was heard, he just didn’t get the answer he wanted,” Beebe said. “He was heard every time. In fact, some changes were made that he requested. He just didn’t get as much as he wanted.”
Crittenden County is 46 percent white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Rep. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, which is in Crittenden County, announced last Tuesday that he intends to seek the seat. He is white.
Crumbly stressed that the suit isn’t about his chances for re-election.
“This is not about Jack Crumbly. It’s not personal,” he said. “It’s about something much greater, the voting rights of people in northeastern Arkansas.”
The suit states that the board worked to keep the homes of incumbent white legislators from being placed in the same district. When the plan was being approved, several white House members had signaled that they were considering Senate bids.
Rep. Jerry Brown, D-Wynne,has announced he plans to seek Senate District 23. He is white.
Senate District 24 used to be made up of parts of Crittenden, Lee, Phillips and St. Francis counties.
Valley said Ingram’s announcement did not affect the timing of the lawsuit.
“These cases are not easy to put together,” Valley said. “It’s not that you say I don’t like it and file a lawsuit. I think they decided to file some months ago.”
Some of the plaintiffs in the case include people who have taken Arkansas to court over the past three decades about how the state’s black population is divided among legislative districts.
In 1989, M.C. Jeffers of Forrest City and others sued the state over the 1981 redistricting map, which included four majority-black House districts and one such Senate district. In the case, Jeffers v. Clinton, the U.S. District Court ruled that the state’s map violated the federal Voting Rights Act, which discourages splitting a minority-group community so that it can’t vote as a bloc. A group that can vote as a bloc is more likely to vote for a person who reflects them, it said.
Jeffers’ widow, Future Mae Jeffers, and daughter, Mary Jeffers, both of Forrest City, are plaintiffs in the new case.
Mary Jeffers is a City Council member in Forrest City.
“You can’t escape the symbolism that is there, that Jeffers brought the first action, the watershed,” Valley said.
The court ordered an increase of majority-black House districts to 13 and Senate districts to three for the 1990 election.
Another plaintiff in the current case, Elbert Smith of West Memphis, was the lead plaintiff in the 1988 Smith v. Clinton voter dilution case that led to redrawing House districts in eastern Arkansas.
During redistricting after the 1990 Census, the Board of Apportionment decided to keep that same number of majority black districts. The same plaintiffs again challenged the state map in U.S. District Court, seeking additional majority-black districts. But a three-judge panel ruled that the state’s changes were sufficient.
In 2002 a U.S. District judge threw out a lawsuit from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that challenged the constitutionality of the realigned legislative districts after the 2000 Census. The board created 13 House districts and four Senate districts as majority-black, which amounted to one more majority-black Senate district than in the 1990s.
Front Section, Pages 1 on 01/24/2012
"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.The native of Flint, MI spent the early 1990s playing for the NCAA's Vermont Catamounts in the Hockey East conference and was the 217th draft pick of the Quebec Nordiques (now the Colorado Avalanche) in the 1994 NHL Entry draft. Thomas bounced around the minors and Europe for the next several years. In 2002, Thomas landed with Boston's minor-league affiliate in Providence, RI and was called up by the parent club that year, earning his first NHL win after a 4-3 victory against the Edmonton Oilers in October 2002.
This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT"
Lawrence Tynes booted the Giants into the Super Bowl again.
Tynes kicked a winning 31-yard field goal in sudden-death overtime and New York beat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 in the NFC championship game Sunday night to reach its second Super Bowl in five seasons.
Eli Manning and the Giants (12-7) will face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis, just as they did when they won it in 2008.
Tynes also kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime at Green Bay in the 2008 NFC title game that put the Giants in the Super Bowl.
Devon Thomas put the Giants in position. He recovered his second fumble of the game after Jacquian Williams stripped the ball from fill-in return man Kyle Williams.
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will step down from Congress this week to focus on her recovery, her staff announced Sunday.
"I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week," Giffords said in a video message.
Giffords, a third-generation Arizonan who served five years in the state Legislature before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2006, will not seek re-election this fall.
Giffords vowed to return public service.
"I will return and we will work together for Arizona and this great country," she said.
In the two-minute video, Giffords urged her colleagues in Congress to work across party lines.
"A lot has happened over the past year," she said. "We cannot change that. But I know on the issues we fought for, we can change things for the better."
Giffords will submit her letter of resignation later this week to House Speaker John Boehner and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. The governor will set the date for special primary and general elections to determine who will serve the remainder of Giffords' term.
Joe Paterno, major-college football's all-time wins leader, died Sunday, according to a statement released by his family. He was 85. He had been undergoing treatment for lung cancer.Please bookmark!
The man known by his Pennsylvania State University fans as JoePa will be remembered both for his legendary career leading one of his sport's top programs and for the abrupt way that career ended in November. Mr. Paterno was fired by Penn State's board of regents as part of the fallout from the arrest of former longtime Nittany Lions assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Mr. Paterno's 46 years in charge of Penn State's program, starting in 1966, earned him 409 victories, a pair of national titles, a statue in front of his team's home field and a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame. His ties to the school extended to 1950, when he started as an assistant there.
During his time in State College, Pa., he and his wife Sue donated an estimated $4 million to the university. His Nittany Lions were also held up as a rare marquee football program that won without ever having been found guilty of major violations by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, college sports' governing body. (The organization defines "major" violations as those involving acts that give a team a competitive or recruiting advantage.)
Former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno died Saturday night from lung cancer at the age of 85, CBS Sports confirms.
The winningest major college football coach of all time, Paterno was diagnosed shortly after Penn State’s Board of Trustees ousted him Nov. 9 in the aftermath of the child sex abuse charges against former assistant Jerry Sandusky. Paterno was getting treatment since, and his health problems worsened when he broke his pelvis — an injury that first cropped up when he was accidentally hit in preseason practice last year.
“Over the last few days Joe Paterno has experienced further health complications,” family spokesman Dan McGinn said in a brief statement Saturday to The Associated Press. “His doctors have now characterized his status as serious.
“His family will have no comment on the situation and asks that their privacy be respected during this difficult time,” he said.