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Wednesday, October 31, 1990

Clinton v Jeffers

Findings of the Supreme Court of the United States in
Clinton v Jeffers No. 90-394 (1990) on appeal
730 F. Supp. 196, 198-201 (ED Ark. 1989) October Term, 1990

The three-judge district court held in December 1989 that Bill Clinton's state-wide legislative reapportionment plan violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. 1973.

Bill Clinton does not dispute here—that “violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment justifying equitable relief have occurred in Arkansas.”

In May 1990, the district court turned to those claims, holding that “the State of Arkansas has committed a number of constitutional violations of the voting rights of black citizens.” In particular, the court determined that the “State has systematically and deliberately enacted new majority-vote requirements for municipal offices, in an effort to frustrate black political success in elections traditionally requiring only a plurality to win.”

Devotion to majority rule for local offices lay dormant as long as the plurality system produced white office-holders. But whenever black candidates used this system successfully—and victory by a plurality has been virtually their only chance of success in at-large elections in majority-white cities—the response was swift and certain. Laws were passed in an attempt to close off this avenue of black political victory.

The court therefore concluded that

this series of laws represents a systematic and deliberate attempt to reduce black political opportunity. Such an attempt is plainly unconstitutional. It replaces a system in which blacks could and did succeed, with one in which they almost certainly cannot. The inference of racial motivation is inescapable.