A ballot initiative to change state legislative and U.S. Congressional redistricting in Arkansas has been approved by the Attorney General.
The Arkansas Citizens Redistricting Amendment would establish a seven-member citizens redistricting commission to replace the state Board of Apportionment, a committee made up of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state that currently draws state legislative redistricting lines.
"Things are a little different in Arkansas than in other states in that it is [these] three statewide elected officials who have the power, rather than the legislature itself, over the drawing of state legislative district lines," explains Jay Barth, a political scientist at Hendrix College.
The approved ballot proposal is written by Skip Cook of North Little Rock, who said he was not immediately available for comment. Cook is with the group Arkansans for Governmental Reform.
Over the last several decades, there has been a move around the nation toward forming independent redistricting commissions, which aims to address partisan gerrymandering.
The proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution states that "no district shall be drawn to 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."
The redistricting initiative also seeks to abolish the legislature's authority to redraw Congressional districts, which is done in collaboration with the governor every ten years.