The Arkansas Redistricting Dog and Pony Show

Arkansas redistricting map

You may be aware of the recent battle-by-press-release between Governor Mike Beebe, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, and Secretary of State Mark Martin over redistricting in Arkansas.

McDaniel proposed a public hearing where the public could see all proposed maps and directly communicate with redistricting staff. Martin agreed, but raised the ante: he suggested that the three officeholders who decide redistricting should attend the meeting, so that members of the public could address them directly.

In response, the governor trotted out his beleaguered spokesperson to say that Beebe wouldn’t attend, because “he thought his presence would be counter-productive. The hearings so far have been successful because they’ve been about the maps, not about the men.”

Connoisseurs of political nonsense probably enjoyed watching all this, largely because the public posturing over redistricting has been shot through with nonsense of an especially high order. 

Redistricting czar Joe Woodson has indeed scheduled half a dozen or so redistricting hearings across the state, giving citizens an opportunity to comment on the publicly proposed maps.

The problem is that the only publicly proposed maps in existence are Mark Martin’s.

This raises two difficulties. I don’t want to seem cynical, and I don’t want to get into higher mathematics, but there are two relevant principles at work here.

The first is that the two Democrats who have a vote here, Beebe and McDaniel, will almost certainly produce maps that are quite different from Martin’s. The second is that two is more than one, although there are limits to this principle.

The application of these two principles suggests the Woodson hearings are, to put it mildly, a dog and pony show and an utter waste of taxpayer money.

How on earth could the past public comment hearings have been “successful,” as the governor’s spokesperson declared, when the public hasn’t had the chance to see the Democrats’ proposed maps?

One possibility that occurs to me is that Martin proposed that the three officeholders attend this final meeting precisely because he thought all three of them should be faced with this question. Another possibility is that Governor Beebe declined the invitation because he didn’t have an answer.

UPDATE: Check out the Red Arkansas blog for more on this issue.

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