Attorney General Leslie Rutledge yesterday approved the form of a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way congressional and legislative districts are drawn every 10 years. This is a good idea, if far removed from reality at this moment. The proposal was submitted by Skip Cook on behalf of Arkansans for Governmental Reform. He’s been active in politics, particularly as a term limits advocate. He’s taking up here an idea that has had growing support around the U.S. — independent districting commissions. They are meant to cure partisan gerrymandering and, in some places, have produced cohesive, geographically sensible district lines that have cut both ways in impact on partisan interests.
The Constitution currently provides that the governor, secretary of state and attorney general comprise the board that draws state legislative districts and the legislature draws congressional districts. The current board members are all Republicans and all seats are on the ballot this year for terms that will run through the next redistricting in 2021. Democrats had a 2-1 edge in 2011 on the board and they held a majority in the legislature for congressional redistricting. (The red tide overcame Democratic efforts to stack the election deck, obviously.) Cook’s proposes to have an independent commission draw both state and federal district lines.