Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Seriously, you guys...

This is, without a doubt, the best...

well, let me first show you the story that I'm basing this on, before I tell you what this is the best 'the best'.

So, I was reading my state-wide newspaper, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and on the front page is this story (emphasis mine).

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

“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.” So, minorities must have a majority of the vote in order to get their candidates to victory? Is that what I'm reading?


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