Arkansas Voters First, the group hoping to put an amendment to create non-partisan legislative redistricting, has begun an ad campaign though it’s still fighting in court to reach the ballot.
State legislative redistricting is currently controlled by a partisan commission. The Republican-controlled legislature draws congressional districts. The amendment would establish a nonpartisan commission to draw the lines, with an emphasis on regular shape and natural boundaries, among others. The Republican Party is fighting the amendment and the Republican secretary of state refused to certify it for the ballot. An appeal is pending with the state Supreme Court.
The process would address gerrymandering of districts for partisan advantage. The idea enjoys broad public support according to polls.
From their release:
“We know from polling that the more people know about the current redistricting process, where politicians and lobbyists draw districts behind closed doors to benefit themselves, the more they are outraged by it,” said Bonnie Miller, chair of Arkansas Voters First. “And the more they learn about our proposed solution, the more they support a citizen-driven, transparent, and fair redistricting process. With 89 percent of Arkansas voters wanting a chance to vote on this proposal in November, we’re continuing to build awareness and support to build toward victory and put an end to partisan gerrymandering in our state.”
The first digital advertisement is a one-minute animated video that begins with how the current system, where politicians and lobbyists gather behind closed doors to cut backroom deals to benefit themselves, has worked in the past. The ad then provides an overview of how the proposed constitutional amendment would put citizens in charge with a 9-person Citizens’ Redistricting Commission, banning politicians and lobbyists and requiring public input and transparent access to all commission activities including meetings, data and documents to make sure voters choose their politicians – not the other way around.
The second set of ads displays the results of a recent poll from the League of Women Voters of Arkansas that found that regardless of where voters stand on redistricting reform, 89 percent want the opportunity to vote on the issue in November.
The campaign also launched a series of graphics to show how the current process leads to oddly drawn districts, created as politicians meticulously draw district lines into various counties and even cities to choose their own voters. Several districts were recreated by AVF as if they were baseball cards, with memorable names reflecting the shapes of the district. For instance, the wildly shaped 27th Senate District looks much like a toilet – therefore the name, the “Fordyce Flusher.” Future baseball cards will feature districts like the 68th House District, which looks like a wrench, earning the name “The Russellville Wrench.”
The campaign has received $1.5 million from Action Now Initiative of Houston, funded by billionaires who’ve backed a variety of government policy initiatives around the country, as well as in-kind help from the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan public interest legal group, and Represent Us, a grassroots group that fights public corruption.
Also backing this effort is the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, which released this morning a report on gerrymandering in Arkansas.
Written by Dr. Christopher Housenick, Ph.D., and Dr. Patrick Hagge, Ph.D., the report outlines other states’ approaches to redistricting, the obstacles to fair redistricting caused by gerrymandering, and some of the steps other states are taking to
address those challenges.
A related webinar open to the public is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20. Registration for the webinar can be found here.
The event will also be live-streamed on the Arkansas Public Policy Panel’s Facebook page.