LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) – Arkansas Voters First today filed over 98,000 signatures of registered Arkansas voters supporting a constitutional amendment to end direct partisan redistricting and lead to a fair, transparent process for drawing legislative seats in Arkansas.
The signatures collected will represent more than 10 percent of the total number of statewide votes cast for the office of governor in the 2018 gubernatorial election. The signatures Arkansas Voters First submitted will also satisfy the geographical distribution requirements of collecting at least 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in 15 counties.
“This has been an enormous effort. So many people have been working tirelessly to help us qualify,” said AVF Chairperson Bonnie Miller. “The fact that over a hundred thousand Arkansans were willing to get out in a pandemic to show their support for this initiative shows the hunger people have for a more representative government.”
Instead of politicians picking their voters, the proposal would establish a 9-member commission of Arkansas citizens to determine districts in the State House of Representatives, State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. The proposal also bans lobbyists from serving on the commission and requires all commission meetings and papers be made open and accessible to the public for input.
Every 10 years, Arkansas redraws its legislative and congressional boundaries to reflect shifts in population that have occurred over the previous decade. Under current law, Politicians and lobbyists are permitted to meet behind closed doors to carve up the states voting districts. It has historically produced oddly shaped maps that serve the powerful but not the people.
Arkansas Voters First simply believes the process should be fair for everyone. It removes the inherent conflict that exists when legislators draw their own districts. Specifically, the proposed amendment would:
- Create a 9-member independent citizens commission independent to determine districts for the US House of Representatives, the state House of Representatives and the state Senate;
- Commissioner selection is administered by a panel of three retired judges selected by the Chief Justice of the AR Supreme Court;
- The commission must be equally divided between Republicans, Democrats and Independent voters;
- The Governor and legislative leaders will both have the right to strike no more than two applicants from the pool of thirty to be considered by the panel of judges;
- Lobbyists and partisan elected officials will be excluded from serving on the commission
- The Commission will be prohibited from favoring or disfavoring any political party or elected official and will be bound by conventional criteria including compactness, contiguity, and preserving communities of interest.
- All work performed by the commission will be subject to open records laws and committee hearings will take place in public;
- Plans are approved when six of the nine commissioners are signed on.
States across the country have seen politicized redistricting processes result in highly partisan districts that overwhelmingly benefit incumbency—meaning career politicians and entrenched special interests. Many of the most high-profile redistricting battles – in states including Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Maryland – have led to costly and contentious court fights that take years to resolve.
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