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Arkansas Group Petitioning to Overturn Congressional Redistricting Map

Little Rock Arkansas Skyline
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There is already some vocal disagreement about the Arkansas Legislature's new congressional-district map, which splits the Little Rock area between three of the four districts.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A voting-rights coalition is pushing to overturn Arkansas' new congressional maps approved by the state Legislature this month, due to concerns about partisan gerrymandering.

Two bills, Senate Bill 743 and House Bill 1982, as amended, created the four new congressional district maps based on 2020 U.S. Census data. They've sparked contention for splitting Pulaski County and the capital region into three separate districts.

The group Arkansans for a Unified Natural State is urging the state's residents to halt the legislation through referenda.

Kwami Abdul-Bey, the group's founder, said the new maps could hurt the chances of Arkansas one day electing its first Black member of Congress.

"We do believe this map has effectively silenced the political voice and power of those Black and brown voters in the southeastern section of the county," Abdul-Bey contended.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said last week he would allow the bills to become law without his signature.

The maps go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourned on Oct. 15. Opponents will use time to collect 54,000 signatures from at least 15 counties for each referendum. If they get them by the deadline, the bills would not become law, and would instead be put on the November 2022 ballot.

Loriee Evans, lead organizer at Indivisible Little Rock and Central Arkansas, described members of her organization as "alarmed" at the lack of transparency in the congressional redistricting process. She said the two bills were introduced and voted on quickly, and without input from the residents they affect.

"We at Indivisible really expected a higher standard of public notice on bills that redraw all of Arkansas' congressional districts," Evans asserted. "Because these maps, you know, they're going to impact all Arkansans for a decade."

Republicans, who have a supermajority in both Arkansas House and Senate, control the redistricting process this year for the first time in over a century. In a statement, the Republican Caucus said it believes the maps are lawful and that a court will uphold them in the event of expected legal challenges.