Speaker Moore Says Congressional Map Free of Errors

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 33 views 

Arkansas House Speaker Robert Moore responded today in a statement to a question raised last Friday from Congressman Rick Crawford regarding potential errors in the new Congressional map.  According to the letter from Crawford, the map — largely crafted by Crawford’s potential general election opponent, Rep. Clark Hall, who chaired the House committee responsible for redistricting — did not move two rural precincts in Jefferson County leaving them islands within the Fourth Congressional District surrounded by the First Congressional District.

Relying primarily on the information from the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research — who in turn relied on software with data from the U.S. Census Bureau — Moore said the map does not have any errors.  Here is Moore’s full statement…

The Bureau of Legislative Research, whose staff drafted the new Congressional district map used for Act 1241 of 2011, says the redistricting legislation is correct, and all precincts are accounted for within their intended districts.

House Speaker Robert S. Moore, Jr., asked the Bureau to review the matter after receiving a letter last week from Congressman Rick Crawford, concerned that Jefferson County voting precincts 90 and 751, intended for the First District, appear to be left as Fourth District precincts.  The Bureau says while voting precincts 90 and 751, along with Precinct 10, are not specifically named in Act 1241, they are located within the geographic boundaries of three voting districts the Act does list as being in the First District.  Voting Precinct 90 exists within Voting  District P91 (Roberts);  Voting Precinct 751 exists within Voting District 19 (Dunnington); and Voting Precinct 10 exists within Voting District P15 (Dudley Lake).

The naming discrepancy  comes from an inconsistency in the way the precincts are named in the Jefferson County-defined election districts, and those defined by the U.S. Census Bureau data, which drafters are required to use in drawing new boundaries.  The nomenclature does not affect the legislation, and it should not even impact local polling sites, since the precincts in question each already share a voting location with the voting district named by the Act.

“Ensuring equal representation through Congressional redistricting is one of the most important  tasks before the General Assembly every ten years,” said Speaker Moore.   “I am pleased we are able to ensure all Arkansas voters are accurately accounted for in their respective Congressional Districts.” 

However, this matter is not resolved, according to Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Johnson.  According to her, the election commission is still investigating the issue despite the Speaker’s comments.  Will Fox, who chairs the commission, met today and is working on the issue.

The Jefferson County Election Commission is important in the matter as — according to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office — they are the ones who define which precincts exist, not the U.S. Census Bureau, which supplied the data that the state used.  The act – ACT1242 – specifically moves seven “voting districts of Jefferson County as they existed on January 1, 2011” and does not include the two voting districts in question as Crawford contends that it should have.

It will be interesting to see how this whole issue is resolved, but it certainly highlights the rushed manner in which the maps were passed without time for review for greater public input.  It is important to remember that this is the first time in history Arkansas has split a county between Congressional districts.  It appears this was done without discussing with the county officials involved whether they had the language written correctly.

That seems like a big oversight to me and one that would have saved a lot of heartache.  And the House spokesperson I talked to after Moore put out his statement was not sure if anyone had yet to speak with anyone from Jefferson County.

And Rep. Rick Crawford sends this statement late in the day:

“It is surprising Speaker Moore took two days to respond since Representative Hall, [the] Bureau of Legislative Research and others were made aware of this issue in early September when Jefferson County officials raised their concerns. The Jefferson County election commissioner who alerted state officials to this error points out ‘voting districts’ do not exist in Jefferson County. The specific voting blocks named in Act 1242 are precincts. Strangely, no other ‘voting districts’ in Jefferson County, or any other county, include other precincts.

“It is sad Speaker Moore and Representative Hall continue the partisan politics that plagued the redistricting process, as was widely reported in the news. My request is not to have the Congressional map redrawn. Other than the two island precincts, which cause legal problems, the map is fine. My objective is to ensure we have a legal map so that the election isn’t thrown into turmoil should someone file a lawsuit contesting the new Congressional map. Surely everyone could agree avoiding chaos is in the best interest of Arkansas.”