When the Governor, the Attorney General and the Secretary of State talked at the first Board of Apportionment meeting about a transparent redistricting process that would make the people of Arkansas proud, we can only assume they were being ironic.
On Monday, the governor quickly called a meeting with less than 24 hours notice, immediately adjourned the board members to a smoke filled* back room and appointed the political insider he wanted to coordinate redistricting without taking a single public comment or any questions.
*OK, we can’t confirm if there was actual smoke filling the room, but it was technically a back room, behind actual closed doors. Political decisions were made by only the people inside — which by definition makes them political insiders. So maybe the description could have stood without the use of the term “smoke filled”. Next time, allow the public in to view the process and we will be more accurate in our metaphors.
As you may recall from the inaugural edition of “As The Board Of Apportionment Turns,” Governor Hutchinson nominated former Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court Betty Dickey for the position of redistricting coordinator.
Quick Review: After serving as the first female Chief Justice on the Court, Dickey represented a company involved in a bribery and corruption scandal that involved the Governor’s nephew. The company eventually agreed to a $6.5 million settlement.
A few minutes after calling the meeting to order, Governor Hutchinson adjourned the Board to an executive session because according to the Governor, the appointment of the one person who will lead the redistricting process and be the public’s representative is a “personnel issue” not subject to public scrutiny.
After about 20+ minutes of what we can only imagine were some REALLY rigorous questions the board reconvened and appointed Dickey as redistricting coordinator. No questions or comments were taken from the public.
As you may remember, the Board of Apportionment is responsible for redrawing our state legislative districts. This means that the Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General, all Republican politicians, are responsible for drawing the Arkansas House and Arkansas Senate districts.
We believe that allowing politicians (political insiders and even former Justices who were involved in a $6.5 million bribery settlement) to draw districts and therefore, choose their own voters, is an inherent conflict of interest.