Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge approved another proposed constitutional amendment to alter the way Arkansas redraws its legislative and Congressional districts.
Rutledge approved the measure submitted by attorney Nate Steel, one of the organizers of the successful casino amendment campaign in 2018.
The “Amendment to Create a Citizens Redistricting Commission for Decennial Redistricting of Arkansas Congressional and State Legislative Districts” would establish a seven-member citizens commission to redraw the 100 House districts and 35 Senate districts, which is done by the Board of Apportionment after each decennial census. The board is made up of the Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State.
The proposal also would give the citizens commission oversight of the redrawing of Arkansas’ four Congressional Districts. That power currently rests with the Arkansas General Assembly, which redraws those federal lines in the year after the Census.
The seven members would be appointed by:
- Speaker of the House
- Senate President Pro Tempore
- House Speaker Pro Tempore
- Senate Majority Leader
- House Majority Leader
- Senate Minority Leader
- House Minority Leader
“Your proposed popular name and ballot title are certified as submitted,” Rutledge said. “I believe a cautionary note is warranted, however, in light of the significance of the subject matter undertaken — apportionment and redistricting — and the complexity and far-reaching effects of this proposal. You should be aware that experience has shown a correlation between the length and complexity of initiated measures and their susceptibility to a successful ballot title challenge. Any ambiguity in the text of a measure could lead to a successful court challenge.”
Rutledge has already certified two other similar ballot proposals seeking to create citizens commissions to take over the legislative and Congressional redistricting process.
Her approval clears the way for the group supporting the measure to collect nearly 85,000 signatures to qualify for the 2020 general election ballot.
Darbie Kuykendall, chair of Protect AR Democracy, the group pursuing the ballot measure, tells Talk Business & Politics, “In 2018, the country saw a surge of groups fighting to create independent redistricting commissions ahead of the 2020 census under the guise of preventing gerrymandering. These independent commissions, however, are anything but ‘independent.’ They are completely partisan in nature, despite their claims.”
Kuykendall added, “In October of 2018, an amendment was certified here in Arkansas to create a commission that would create chaos. This initiative is designed to counter that proposal and protect our congressional and state legislative districts from being completely destroyed for the next decade.”