New analysis: a detailed withdrawal of the legislative redistribution proposed as partisan and racially discriminatory

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A full analysis by grassroots political groups of the proposed legislative redistribution, which is due for final approval on Monday, finds it politically and racially manipulated and in violation of legal guidelines.

The report to be submitted to the distribution board is by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel and the First Congress of the Citizens of Arkansas. He says counties and cities are needlessly divided for political gain and borders marginalize minority racial and ethnic groups in the process. It illustrates with a detailed analysis of the 35 Senate districts and the 100 House districts.

Some key comments:

Division of political units

Many proposed districts divide the existing political boundaries of city, county, or other boundaries where they should be left whole. The Senate map had 33 counties divided 72 times and the House map had 53 counties divided 135 times. These numerous splits affect almost half of the total population of the state.

Many cities are also divided, while communities of interest have been unnecessarily ignored.

For example, the Town of Fayetteville is divided seven times in the house and three times in the senate, when it could easily have been divided between only four house districts and two senate districts. The city of Little Rock is divided eight times in the House and five times in the Senate. It could have been done with just six chambers and three senate districts.

The city of Jonesboro is divided five times in the House and twice in the Senate. The city only needs three residential quarters and one senatorial quarter. The city of Hot Springs is divided three times in the house and twice in the senate, when only two home districts and one senate were needed. Many small communities are also needlessly fragmented, such as Mtn. Home, Hoxie and Forrest City.

In the Senate, there are only 8 counties that require a split because their population far exceeds the number of people that need to be placed in each district. If the map met the completeness criterion, a total of fourteen single county districts could have been created. Instead, the proposed card only has three.

These splits, especially those targeting minority constituencies, were clearly drawn with the aim of gaining disproportionate partisan advantage and marginalizing minority voters.

Dilution of minority votes

The proposed maps result in dilution of minority voters either by dividing minority constituencies into multiple districts to dilute the number of majority minority constituencies, or by grouping a high number of minority constituencies into fewer constituencies, which creates fewer competitive constituencies. . Several dozen neighborhoods had this as a defining characteristic.

While the excessive division of the 33 counties on the Senate map and the 53 counties on the House map results in a marked increase in the number of majority minority ridings and the number of minority-influenced ridings in both the Senate and the House , then these splitting would be justified to comply with the voting rights law. However, the opposite was true.

The Council has said it prioritizes the interests of minority voters, but this does not appear to be the case. The Council claims to have created 4 majority minority districts and one minority coalition district in the Senate – but they achieved this by consolidating large concentrations of minority voters in these districts, even when this violated other guidelines.

In other places, they have breached minority constituencies to dilute the minority vote, again while violating other redistribution guidelines such as compactness or the preservation of communities of interest. They could have created many more minority coalition districts and opportunities for minorities while preserving more community boundaries.

The result of the Council’s proposal would be less possibilities for minorities to influence the outcome of elections, fewer possibilities for minorities to choose the
candidate of their choice and fewer competitive constituencies. It increased the number of ridings where candidates could largely ignore the concerns of minority voters.

Compactness

Many proposed districts fail the compactness test – they are sprawling, unnecessarily complicated, and, as mentioned above, divide existing city, county, and school district lines without a rational basis.

In the Senate, only 16 of the proposed districts pass the test for compactness of less than 30%. Two of the quarters absolutely fail the compactness test greater than 50%: quarters 15 and 34. In the house, forty-six quarters failed the compactness test. The following proposed districts scored over 75: Districts 5, 9, 17, 77, 79, 80, 85 and 92. Districts 17 and 92 are the most egregious examples of the Council ignoring the principle of compact districts for achieve a result.

The report says the cards also divide communities of interest and are very partisan, but they generally protect cardholders.

The report argues that the cards violate state and federal redistribution laws. He criticizes the Republican-controlled process, including the failure to hold a public forum after the proposed maps were released. He recommends revising the maps and the groups suggest neighborhoods that they deem more in line with the standards of the law.

Gov. Hutchinson and Betty Dickey, who guided staff work leading up to the three Republicans’ vote scheduled for Monday, said some changes in the cards were possible, but declined to identify any of them. The governor said he would answer questions AFTER the cards were approved.

A release with the analysis says the findings illustrate why Arkansas needs an independent, non-partisan redistribution process. Such a proposal was headed for the ballot last year but blocked on a technicality by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

“The proposal creates real challenges for democracy in Arkansas,” said Bill Kopsky, director of the Arkansas Public Policy Group. “This creates uncompetitive elections where the opportunities for voters to choose between highly competitive candidates are limited. This will lead to an even more polarized and confrontational politics. “

“They marginalized the political power of racial and ethnic groups,” said Kymara Seals, director of policy for the Arkansas Citizens First Congress. “It will exacerbate systemic issues related to civil rights and racial equity. “

The ACLU noted yesterday that its analysis also found the governor’s claim to protect minority districts, particularly the claim of an alleged Hispanic majority district in Springdale, to be flawed. The ACLU analysis indicates that the voting age population in this district is not predominantly Hispanic, and the percentage of registered voters is only about 27 percent Hispanic. This neighborhood was designed for obvious partisan purposes, to damage Democratic Representative Megan Godfrey by removing areas that strongly supported it, including Hispanic neighborhoods.

Here is the full analysis released today, with detailed comments on the proposed districts and suggestions for improvement.

The annex with the district-by-district analysis is fascinating. It illustrates who carefully made political decisions, even dividing constituencies in some cases. The work describes seemingly “surgical” divisions of towns in Pulaski County with racial findings in mind. The lines are similar to those used to carve out majority black areas in the 2nd Congressional District to aid Republican Congressman French Hill. The analysis also notes that Benton and Bryant were separated when the two could have been left whole. On several occasions, the appendices note splits intended to reduce the influence of non-white voting zones. See the Districts of Southern Arkansas for several examples.

The bottom line effect: fewer competitive districts and more that are clearly Republican in nature.

The proposed alternative plans (which, of course, will not be considered) pass the “eyeball” test of compactness, less political divisions and the absence of odd shapes. The Senate plan, for example:

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