by Max Brantley
Maps have begun floating around for congressional redistricting. The Republicans came out first, with their Destroy the Delta map that moves counties with heavily black (Democratic voters) populations out of the 1st and into the 4th. This is called packing. It's unconstitutional.
I came into possession of a variety of alternatives circulating among other legislators, but Roby Brock has handily already posted several of them and given some descriptions of key elements. The plan to extend the 4th District into Washington County is very much alive. The 4th has to gain people somewhere. Sebastian County would be a "natural" addition, but 3rd District Rep. Steve Womack, and most of the county itself, have declared this thoroughly unacceptable. The final nature of a district including Franklin, Johnson and Washington would depend somewhat on the shape of the southeast end of the district — Rep. Mike Ross would like to keep Ashley and Drew; House Speaker Robert Moore would like to see that lower corner of the state moved into the 1st District.
The Democrats will have a hard time recasting the narrative — already being pumped incessantly by Republicans — about the Pig Trail Gerrymander, as John Brummett has dubbed a plan to take in Washington County. I'm guessing the GOP Destroy the Delta plan won't have the same powerful rhetorical allure, though it's no less a partisan gerrymander. Other snappy nicknames are welcome.
A bunch of people are going to be moved out of the 3rd District and 2nd District to go somewhere. Is it a gerrymander only when it happens to Washington County? Or only when it happens in Lee, Monroe and Phillips County? The answer is that change is the name of the game. But, as usual, Republicans are winning the sloganeering. The maps Roby discusses show that there are other alternatives more favorable to Democrats than expansion into Washington County — such as a perfectly cohesive plan of unremarkable shape that puts Little Rock and Jonesboro (homes of two sitting Republican congressmen) in the same congressional district. Perhaps Republicans would prefer that alternative. Or maybe this one, that would put Delta counties into Rep. Tim Griffin's mix