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Group seeks to overturn Arkansas' new district map

Arkansas Legislature

Activists are seeking to overturn Arkansas’ newly-drawn congressional district map through a procedure known as a popular veto.

The group Arkansans for a Unified Natural State says it is beginning the process of collecting signatures to prevent the new map from going into effect.

The group’s Kwami Abdul-Bey says, once the state legislature formally adjourns, they have 90 days to collect 54,000 signatures from at least 15 Arkansas counties to overturn the legislation.

“Other rights, even the most basic, are illusionary if the right to vote is undermined. And we believe that the way that these maps were drawn, the right to vote and vote for the candidate of your choice, has been undermined in Pulaski County, particularly in southeast Pulaski County which is a predominantly non-white population of voters,” Abdul-Bey said.

Abdul-Bey says he also expects legal challenges to the new congressional district map, which was approved by the legislature last week. Lawmakers gave final approval to two identical versions of the same redrawn map, which now await Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s signature.

The map has drawn criticism for splitting Pulaski County into three separate districts, splitting minority communities into Republican-leaning districts that extend far outside central Arkansas. Abdul-Bey says he believes Republicans in the legislature drew the map to diminish the voting power of minority communities.

“It was done [intentionally,] and the impact, if we do not get these maps undone, the impact can be very lasting because we’re going to have to deal with the ramifications of this map for the next 10 years,” Abdul-Bey said.

Local officials, including Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick have criticized the redrawn map. Gov. Asa Hutchinson can either sign the bills into law, veto them, or let them become law without his signature.

Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.