Fayetteville Finger, Is it going to happen? (Part 7)

Political columnist John Brummett analyzes the latest developments at the Arkansas Legislatures.

John Lyon in his article “Compromise sought on redistricting,” Arkansas News Bureau, March 27, 2011, states:

As the legislative session enters what is scheduled to be its final week, some lawmakers say they are seeking a compromise on the biggest issue they have yet to resolve: How to redraw the boundaries of the state’s four congressional districts.

“We need to not leave without a good, fair map,” said Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home, the sponsor of a redistricting proposal that has not yet been presented in committee.

Key said he hopes a compromise plan will emerge early this week. He said he did not know whether the plan would be an amended version of his proposal or would be incorporated into someone else’s bill.

Rep. Clark Hall’s plan

The only proposal that has cleared a committee is House Bill 1836 by Rep. Clark Hall D-Marvell, which was endorsed by the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday. Hall said Friday he planned to run the bill in its present form on the House floor early this week.

Hall’s proposal would extend the 1st District into the Democratically controlled southeastern corner of the state and extend a narrow reach of the 4th District into Washington County to encompass the Democratic enclave of Fayetteville, home to the University of Arkansas.

Republicans call the plan a naked attempt to put Democrats in a position to unseat 1st District U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, who was elected in November to the seat previously held by Democrat Marion Berry, while bringing Fayetteville into the 4th District, home to Arkansas’ only Democratic congressman, Mike Ross of Prescott.

“The Democratic Party is using Washington-style tactics and parliamentary ploys to reverse the will of Arkansas voters who chose to have a majority Republican congressional delegation,” state Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb said last week.

Webb threatened a lawsuit if the proposal becomes law.

“They’re just yelling things out because they don’t like the plan, because it doesn’t provide as much incumbent protection for their three office holders as they would like,” responded state Democratic Party Chairman Will Bond.

Bond called Hall’s plan “a perfectly fine and legal map” that equalizes population between the districts and preserves the principle of one person, one vote. Compared with the other 431 U.S. House districts, Hall’s proposal would not even crack the top 100 for odd configurations, he said.

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The Democrats can talk all they want about how this plan is not out of the ordinary, but the clear facts give a different picture. This plan cuts through lots of counties and splits them up for the political purpose of attempting to get about 30,000 Democrats out of Fayetteville and putting them in the 4th District. Jason Tolbert pointed that the slice of Crawford County only includes 67 voters (some of the land pictured below).  

Max Brantley actually laughed this theory off as a dumb joke when he first heard about it and now he is defending it. While backtracking Brantley wrote on March 5th:  “…as I did the other day, that growing the 4th Congressional District into Fayetteville is not so strange as it first appeared.”

The Democrats are sticking it to the Republicans on this one, and I doubt that the Republicans will be able to keep Fayetteville where it belongs. Earlier Brummett suggested sending Ft Smith to the 4th, but since this new idea came around there will be no more talk of that.

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