Notes from the Campaign Trail: Redistricting ballot initiative cleared to collect signatures

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 700 views 

It won’t be on the 2018 ballot, but you might start seeing activity surrounding a new ballot initiative soon. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has okayed the ballot title on a measure that would alter Congressional and legislative redistricting, which happens once every decade.

The measure — sponsored by Skip Cook with Arkansans for Governmental Reform – is titled “The Arkansas Citizens Redistricting Amendment.” It would establish a seven-member citizens redistricting commission and abolish the state Board of Apportionment — the committee consisting of the governor, AG, and Secretary of State that currently draws state legislative redistricting lines. It would also abolish the General Assembly’s authority to redraw Congressional districts.

The proposed amendment would have majority and minority leaders in the Arkansas House and Senate appoint a member each and that four-member group would pick three more members from a “blind selection from a pool of individuals nominated by each commissioner.” It stipulates that no more than four of the members of the commission shall have any political party affiliation “as determined by statewide voter registration and the three members elected by the commissioners shall not be affiliated with any political party as determined by statewide voter registration.”

There are restrictions for selection that include family connections and five years of previous service as a lobbyist or governmental employee, although there is an exception for military service. The measure language instructs the commission to draw boundaries that don’t “discriminate against or favor a political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress nor be drawn to augment or dilute the voting strength of a group of individuals speaking the same language or racial minority group.”

If the leader of the effort, Skip Cook, sounds familiar, he should be. He’s been active in ballot measures for years. Cook and his group are leading this year’s term limits measure, which will be on the November 2018 ballot, and he has pushed other term limits proposals in the past.

National political observers believe Democrat Clarke Tucker’s challenge to Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. French Hill is getting more competitive. Highly respected political analyst Larry Sabato of the Crystal Ball has moved the Second District Congressional race from ‘Likely Republican’ to “Leans Republican,’ a less confident position for Hill.

The ratings shift comes about 100 days from Election Day. Sabato says the change in Arkansas’ Second District is one of 17 House seat shifts “all in favor of the Democrats.” He pegs Democrats chances of taking control of the U.S. House at “a little better than 50-50.”

“This is the first time this cycle we’ve gone beyond 50-50 odds on a House turnover,” he added.

While the Second District race may be shifting and attracting national attention, Gov. Asa Hutchinson appears to be sitting pretty at least in the polls.

The Republican governor seeking re-election to a second term has a 57-26% favorable to unfavorable rating, according to Morning Consult, the Politico-affiliated polling group that surveys in all 50 states.

Hutchinson, who faces Democrat Jared Henderson and Libertarian Mark West this fall, is the 8th most popular governor in the nation in the latest Morning Consult’s results.

Henderson has been poking Hutchinson lately on the issue of tariffs, trade and the economy. Earlier this week, Henderson said the “incoherent trade war” strategy of the Trump administration has had a “roaring impact on Arkansas farmers, steel consumers, and agri-related businesses.”

He also hit Hutchinson for the latest state GDP report, which pegged Arkansas 49th with near zero growth in the first quarter.

“Our state’s growth came to a halt earlier this year, and the prospects of a healthy economy moving forward look more grim as farmers face the trade war’s impact. Hutchinson continues to recite talking points on economic growth and the prioritization of our agriculture sector, but remains unwilling to call out Washington as it gambles on the livelihoods of Arkansas farmers,” Henderson said.

“Hardworking Arkansans don’t need Asa Hutchinson to give a kind ‘reminder’ to national politicians that we rely on family-owned farms to keep Arkansas strong – they need someone who is willing to confront Washington’s reckless behavior.”
Editor’s note: ‘Notes from the Campaign Trail’ is a compilation of various political insider tidbits. It is sponsored by Campbell Ward Consulting|Communications.