More complaints about Republican gerrymander of new legislative districts

More complaints about Republican gerrymander of new legislative districts

Two more groups have filed objections to the legislative redistricting proposed by Governor Hutchinson and other Republicans, set for a final vote Monday by the state Board of Apportionment.

The Board consists of Hutchinson, Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Republican Secretary of State John Thurston. The staff was led by former Republican political candidate Betty Dickey, also appointed to fill vacancies on the Arkansas Supreme Court by Republican governors.

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Apportionment after the Census every 10 years always has had a partisan flavor, but this year’s effort is particularly striking based on a statistical analysis of voting patterns. It could produce Republican percentages in the legislature near 80 percent (against a 62 percent vote for president) and seems likely to diminish voting power for Black citizens.

The ACLU of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel in conjunction with the Citizens First Congress previously criticized the plans as partisan gerrymandering with racially discriminatory results that divide communities of interest — cities, counties and even precincts.

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The governor has said he won’t address the questions until AFTER the maps are approved Monday and said they could change before then, but no details have been revealed. There’s been no public hearing on the maps.

Today, Indivisible Little Rock and Central Arkansas and Arkansans for a Unified Natural State joined the criticism, particularly for decisions that dilute the voting power of minority communities. Said their news release:

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These lines were drawn in a manner that both cracked and packed Black and Hispanic communities, in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Despite multiple public statements by Board of Apportionment chair Governor Asa Hutchinson and redistricting coordinator Justice Betty Dickey, race and partisan interests appear to have significantly influenced the drawing of the proposed Senate and House maps.

Kwami Abdul-Bey, founder of Arkansans for a Unified Natural State (AFUNS), added:  “The Arkansas redistricting message has been received as loud and clear by historically marginalized communities: The officially drawn maps in Arkansas exclusively prioritize the solidifying of electoral power within white communities, particularly those white communities that possess excess wealth and vote Republican.”

The release drew attention to Jacksonville, which with 29,500 residents could have constituted a single House district, which ideally should have about 30,000 population. Instated it was divided among three House districts.  Said the release:

However, the Board carved out a large group of the city’s Black voters and placed them  with other high-minority precincts in proposed District 66, which snakes down the east side of Pulaski County. This is an example of “cracking” minority voters who make up a common community of interest, and “packing” them together with other minority voters, in order to reduce the number of districts in which the minority voters will have influence. It also echoes the splitting up of Black voting communities when the Arkansas legislature approved new Congressional maps in October that divided the densely non-white population of southern and eastern Pulaski County into three separate Congressional districts, including some of those same Jacksonville voters.

While Black Arkansans make up 16.5 percent of the state population, only 11 percent of legislative districts have been drawn with majority-Black populations. Furthermore said the release:

“High-minority precincts were placed in new House districts in a way that results in greater partisan advantage for Republican party candidates,” said Indivisible LRCA’s lead organizer Loriee Evans. “Seventy House districts currently favor GOP candidates; that number rises to 74 under the proposed maps. Only 11 or 12 districts will now be competitive, down from 17. Out of 100. Think about it. They’re going to make it harder for millions of ordinary Arkansans, like those who aren’t White, or those who don’t consider themselves Republican, to elect candidates of their own choosing.”

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Here’s Indivisible LRCA’s Letter to the Board of Apportionment

AFUNS submitted alternative legislative maps.  View them using the links below.

SENATE: https://davesredistricting.org/join/32e4fb2f-ded4-444a-9a2e-a08d70b6a620

HOUSE: https://davesredistricting.org/join/e1a88ffe-04eb-435f-b7dd-a75d219383bb

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