Gerrymandering, Pulaski County Republican-style
The Pulaski Election Commission’s public comment period closes at 11:59 p.m. tonight on proposals to redraw zones for the Pulaski County Quorum Court and you should take a look at the proposal submitted by Republican Evelyn Gomez, the combative former chair of the Election Commission.
You’ll remember she popped up with this map at the last minute and the Republican-controlled commission said it should be considered. And so it has been in an extended public comment period.
Gomez says it’s intended to create more majority-minority districts on the 15-member county governing body. I don’t believe that’s her game and not only because advancing minority interests isn’t exactly a hallmark of Republican politics. The Quorum Court currently has six African-Americans, or 40 percent, in a county with a 32 percent African-American population.
The game is to pack minorities into radically reshaped districts (in violation of one of the stated criteria for redistricting, minimal damage to existing districts) in hopes of creating more Republican-friendly districts. At a minimum, her plan would oust three current JPs. The Republican Party currently has five seats on the body.
Check the Gomez districts. District 2, now primarily the Heights, would be extended beyond the western end of Lake Maumelle. District 4, most of the Hillcrest neighborhood, would be cracked into two districts — one portion joined with a larger portion from the central city south of Interstate 630 and another, a sliver of my district, would run into East Little Rock and then across the Arkansas River to encompass downtown North Little Rock and stretch northeast almost to McAlmont. The disregard for natural boundaries and neighborhoods in favor of partisan considerations is obvious. I love the folks in Hanger Hill, Levy, Tie Plant and Dixie Addition, but come on.
The comments so far overwhelmingly favor map 4A, a slight modification for western neighborhoods in response to one of four first proposed by Metroplan’s nonpartisan staff. Four comments favor the Gomez gerrymander, including a former Republican candidate from Sherwood, former Republican legislator Allen Kerr and a couple who live in far western Pulaski County on Colonel Glenn Road. Several parrot the Gomez talking point on minority districts. The tally so far doesn’t include my comment in opposition to the Gomez alternative. It repeats what I’ve written here about the disregard for community, geographic boundaries and maintenance of existing zones.
The Gomez map pits two incumbent JPs in each of three districts, guaranteeing the ouster of three. All are Democrats, except Republican Doug Reed, whose district would grow to include a portion of the Heights represented by Tyler Denton.
Will Republican Election Commisions Kristi Stahr and David Scott vote for a gerrymandered overtly partisan map that does violence to existing districts in a county where only small zone changes were needed because of modest population growth? We’ll find out Dec. 15.
By way of comparison, here are the current boundaries: