I’m thankful for the ACLU of Arkansas.
It has brought the facts to something I predicted weeks ago.
Governor Hutchinson’s and Betty Dickey’s boasts about their legislative redistricting plan misrepresented the facts of the partisan outcome. The map, based on voting history, produces five more Republican-majority House seats and one more in the Senate for an already Republican-dominated body.
But the real misrepresentation concerned minority voters’ interests, spelled out in a letter the ACLU has sent to the Apportionment Board and reported in this morning’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette by Doug Thompson.
The ACLU says there are NOT more minority districts in Arkansas as Hutchinson and Dickey claimed. The biggest outrage — and it was predicted here weeks ago — are the “true facts” about that Hispanic majority district that Hutchinson claimed as a historic achievement in Northwest Arkansas, around Springdale. I doubted from the first that you couldn’t create a district with majority Hispanic voters. Turns out they couldn’t even create a Hispanic population majority. From Thompson’s article on the ACLU letter:
The proposed district in Springdale “has a Hispanic voting-age population percentage of less than 50% — 47.6%.” And the proposed district’s adult Hispanic population who are citizens and eligible to vote is far lower at 27.8%, the ACLU letter says.
The “proposed district is not an effective majority-Hispanic district in any sense, nor is it at all likely to allow Hispanic voters to elect their preferred candidates,” the ACLU letter says.
This district was gerrymandered — not to help Hispanic voters but to drain voter strength from Democratic Rep. Megan Godfrey.
The ACLU also questions Republican numbers on the creation of majority-minority districts generally. It says the Republicans claimed 13 majority-minority House districts where there are only 11. And there was other anti-minority subterfuge at work.
The Republians eliminated a majority Black district in Mississippi County (the better to unseat the incumbent representative, a Black Democrat, I’d guess.) In addition to this “cracking” of minority vote strength the Republicans also engaged in “packing.” They created a majority-minority district spanning 40 miles and parts of Forrest City and West Memphis, to pack Black voters into that district while reducing their influence in neighboring districts.
Said the letter:
“According to the 2020 Census, Black people make up 16.5% of the total population in Arkansas. The BOA’s proposed House map, however, creates only 11 majority-Black districts out of 100 total statewide, meaning it substantially under-represents Black Arkansans. It is possible, however, to create 16 reasonably compact majority-Black House districts out of 100 total statewide, thereby achieving rough proportionality.
“Similarly, the BOA’s proposed Senate map creates just four majority Black districts out of 35 total statewide, constituting only 11.4% of all Senate districts and thus again severely under-representing Black Arkansans. Yet, it is possible to create a map with five reasonably compact majority-Black Senate districts out of 35 total statewide, which would constitute 14.3% of all Senate districts and therefore come much closer to matching the percentage of Black Arkansans statewide.”
The Board meets Monday. The governor and Betty Dickey, the veteran Republican who oversaw the line-drawing for the all-Republican board that will finalize the plan, have said some changes are coming in the original maps. But they’ll be sprung on the public Monday, without any meaningful opportunity for comment. Will any of the past prevarication be rectified? The governor says he’ll take questions AFTER the plan is adopted.
Autocracy R Us here in Darkansas.
A lawsuit seems a possibility (along with one already in progress to challenge the racial cracking of the 2nd District in the legislature’s congressional redistricting), though neither the Arkansas Supreme Court, likely to be dominated by Republican operatives after the 2022 election, nor the Republican-dominated 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is promising venues for racial justice.
UPDATE: The ACLU sent me this material yesterday but somehow it got lost in the ether. Here’s the release including a link to the full letter.
Today the ACLU of Arkansas issued a letter to the Arkansas Board of Apportionment (BOA) outlining concerns with the newly drawn legislative maps. This is the third time the ACLU has sent a letter to the BOA this fall demanding that maps comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and that the Board uphold their promise of a fair and transparent map drawing process.
“Through our team’s analysis it’s clear that the Board has failed to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by drawing maps that substantially underrepresent Black Arkansans, unnecessarily divided communities of interest that merit legislative representation, and neglected to keep its promise of conducting the redistricting process with public input,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director. “These maps will determine how our communities are represented for the next decade and we must ensure that everyone’s voice is heard so that all of our diverse communities can thrive for the next 10 years.”
The letter outlines the shortcomings of the current legislative maps and demands the BOA update the maps in the following ways:
Uphold Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by creating additional majority-minority districts, and address issues with some of BOA’s purported majority-minority districts that are illusory and unlikely to actually allow the minority groups to elect the candidate of their choice.
Honor the stated, nine redistricting criteria and goals that the BOA outlined and promised to follow at the onset of the map drawing process.
Keep communities of interest intact. The BOA has received numerous public requests to reunite communities that have been split and ensure that distinct communities, particularly those underserved, receive fair representation.
“There is no doubt that the redistricting process is a difficult one, but it is also the responsibility of public officials to make sure that final maps are fair and representative,” said Gary Sullivan, ACLU of Arkansas legal director. “These proposed maps fail to comply with the Voting Rights Act, and the Board has refused to engage in a meaningfully transparent process and has neglected to respond to hundreds of community questions through it’s public comment portal. We ask that the Board fulfill its promise and actively engage with community members across the state that have participated in this process to arrive at maps that comply with federal law and adequately represent all Arkansans.”
The ACLU will continue to analyze the newly-drawn maps and encourages all Arkansans to use their voices and add comments through the Board’s online form or directly on the proposed state house or state senate maps between now and Nov. 29.