Arkansas Voters First

A recent decision by a federal court will make it easier for a group known as "Arkansas Voters First" to get a ballot initiative in front of voters in the fall that could potentially end gerrymandering in Arkansas. The decision forgoes the need for witnesses and notarization when collecting the required signatures. Instead you can simply print or request a form be mailed from their website and then collect as many signatures as you are willing. This concession was needed because of the unusual burden brought on by COVID-19. The amendment would set forth an independent commission that would be in charge of redistricting efforts in 2021.

Independent commissions are one way of making redistricting fairer and less partisan. Traditionally it is elected officials who draw the district lines, and predictably, when they do so they make it easier for their side to hold seats in elections. Frequently this is done by grouping as many voters as possible who might oppose them into the fewest number of districts as possible so that they can't make elections competitive in other surrounding districts. It is the antithesis of democracy, and both sides of the political spectrum are widely known to be against it. In fact, a 2019 poll by the Brennan Center found only 2% of democrats and 8% of republicans nationally held a favorable view of it (https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/americans-are-united-against-partisan-gerrymandering). But some elected officials are reluctant to pass legislation that would reign in their own power or set limits on the ways in which they can manipulate the electorate. That’s why it’s so important that this gets done through a ballot initiative, and that voters of all political persuasions unite together to end this practice in Arkansas. In an environment that has become so divisive, finding something to unite over is a welcome respite.

According to AP news, over a dozen states already have some kind of non-political process in place to make sure their districts are drawn more fairly in 2021 (https://apnews.com/4d2e2aea7e224549af61699e51c955dd). Arkansas is widely seen as one of the most gerrymandered states in the country, and now it will be up to the citizens to sign the petition allowing voters the ultimate choice on how districts are determined come November. In the meantime, please make sure to respond to the census, the results of which will be used as part of the redistricting process. Make sure your elderly and disadvantaged neighbors and family do so as well. The results not only determine the amount of representation Arkansas gets nationally, but also the manner in which federal dollars are allocated, all the way down to school lunch programs on the community level.

** (Not included with LTE) **
Other resources on gerrymandering:
https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/what-extreme-gerrymandering
https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/news/2019/10/01/475166/impact-partisan-gerrymandering/


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