A state House committee postponed a vote Friday on a bill to do away with at-large city board seats in towns with a city manager form of government. This is the second time in recent years Rep. John Walker,D-Little Rock, proposed legislation eliminating at-large seats, which are elected through a citywide vote instead of by residents in a defined geographical zone. Walker filed a similar bill in 2011 that didn’t make it out of committee. The House Committee on City, County and Local Affairs ran out of time discussing House Bill 1952 on Friday and agreed to take up the bill again Wednesday. Walker said his legislation would ensure the “one-man, one-vote” principle “to make sure that each citizen’s vote counts equally.” He and other black activists have long argued having at-large positions on the Little Rock board disenfranchises black voters and candidates.
White people have a better chance of winning an at-large seat, Walker has said, adding Little Rock’s three at-large directors who are white cancel out the votes of the 11-member board’s three black directors, who were elected by their respective wards.
In addition to Little Rock, Fort Smith, Siloam Springs, Arkadelphia, Hope, Hot Springs and Texarkana operate under a city manager form of government.
HB1952 would dictate the composition of city boards in towns with that form of government where members of a minority group make up at least 10 percent of the population. The cities would split into seven equally populated wards. Residents of each zone would elect a single member to the board.
Full Article: Vote on at-large officials delayed.