If you don’t like Arkansas’ new legislative maps, you might have a chance to vote for new ones that would be drawn in 2023.

Attorney David Couch, who has led efforts to pass ballot measures to legalize medical marijuana and increase the minimum wage, was driving to the Capitol on Tuesday morning to file a proposed constitutional amendment to create an independent map-drawing commission.

He and his group, People Not Politicians, are proposing an amendment that would create a commission of three members of the majority party (Republicans, now and for a while), three members of the minority party (Democrats) and three members of other parties or independents who would redraw legislative districts every 10 years – and in 2023 for the rest of this 10-year cycle.

Districts are redrawn to account for population shifts after each U.S. census. In Arkansas, congressional districts are drawn by state legislators, while state legislative districts are drawn by the Board of Apportionment, which is composed of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state.

Political boundaries in many states, including in Arkansas, are drawn by elected officials who have incentives to benefit their parties and their personal interests. “Gerrymandering,” which can result in ridiculously shaped districts, is not new. The amendment would write into the Constitution that, “Districts shall not, when viewed on a statewide basis, unduly favor or disfavor any political party.”

In Arkansas, Republicans drew this year’s new maps because they are now in charge. Democrats are mad and have threatened court action.

This is the second election cycle where Couch and others have tried to reform Arkansas’ redistricting process.

In March 2020, Couch and a group called Arkansas Voters First filed an almost identical proposed amendment. Then they started collecting the required voter signatures. The truck carrying the signatures parked at the secretary of state’s office at almost 5 p.m. on the last day it could, and the group’s volunteers rushed the boxes into the office just before closing time.

It turned out to be all for naught, as the Arkansas Supreme Court disallowed the amendment. The justices’ legal reasoning was that the group had affirmed that signature collectors had “acquired” background checks rather than “passed” them. That requirement had been enacted by the Legislature in spite of the fact that there is no such thing as “passing” a background check. But the Supreme Court threw it off the ballot nonetheless.

A judge later declared that law unconstitutional, but it was too late to affect this year’s process. Legislators changed the law but still made it harder to collect signatures by outlawing paying canvas workers by the signature, requiring gatherers to be Arkansas residents and expanding the list of disqualifying background offenses. Couch said his group initially will rely on volunteers from the nine groups that are currently supporting the effort.

Last year’s effort was operating under two deadlines – the signature-gathering deadline which it barely beat, and the 10-year reapportionment, which the Supreme Court didn’t let it beat. Its failure to qualify for the ballot in 2020 assured that elected officials would draw the maps this time.

This year’s effort potentially has a different deadline. Legislators this year referred to voters a proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the required majority for passing a constitutional amendment to 60 percent from the current 50 percent. That’s a high bar, particularly for a somewhat complicated electoral reform provision. If people don’t understand something or have limited experience with it, they might tend to vote no.

If People Not Politicians can collect enough signatures and survive the inevitable court challenges, it still must pass with 50 percent of the vote. Opponents, including Republican officeholders, will argue that the effort is a Trojan horse for Democrats to change a process they dominated for 150 years. The nine organizations supporting People Not Politicians are not exactly conservative groups. Couch said he’d do this if Democrats were still in charge.

If it passes, then nine citizens will redraw the maps by Nov. 1, 2023. A lot has to happen before then.

Steve Brawner is a syndicated columnist published in 16 outlets in Arkansas. Email him at brawnersteve@mac.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevebrawner.

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