End Run Around the State Constitution on Apportionment
Are 135 more "Fayetteville Fingers" about to grope the voters of this state courtesy of Governor Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel?
The April 7th edition of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette contained a quote about the redistricting process that did not get enough attention at the time...
"After voting to hire former secretary of state’s office attorney Joe Woodson Jr. of Little Rock as the board’s redistricting coordinator, the board voted 2-to-1 to give Woodson autonomy from any of the elected officials involved."
The vote put Woodson in charge of most spending, along with the board website, scheduling, staff and the apportionment office.
What was behind the vote? Well the language of Article 8 of the Constitution gives the Secretary of State the most authority in the apportionment process, and the Secretary of State is a Republican (Mark Martin). So in a blatantly partisan move Beebe and McDaniel voted to not only hire as redistricting coordinator a man that Martin choose not to retain when he entered the Secretary of State's office, but voted over Martin's objection to give him "autonomy" from the redistricting board as well.
I see lots of problems with their partisan actions, not the least of which is that the language of State Constitution does not permit it. To whit, section 1 of article 8...
A Board to be known as "The Board of Apportionment," consisting of the Governor (who shall be Chairman), the Secretary of State and the Attorney General is hereby created and it shall be its imperative duty to make apportionment of representatives in accordance with the provisions hereof; the action of a majority in each instance shall be deemed the action of said board
The Constitution specifies that the Board of Apportionment has an "imperative duty" to make the apportionment of representatives (the state legislative districts). By voting to give the "redistricting coordinator" - a position created by fiat and not even listed in the constitution, "autonomy from any of the elected officials involved" Beebe and McDaniel undo the clear intent of the article that the Board itself is to do these things. They cannot delegate this power to another authority and then declare it "autonomous" from members of the very board the article empowers to control the process!
Example: Our federal Congress has the power of the purse strings. All funding bills are to originate in the House by the letter of the Constitution. Congress does not have the authority to delegate its power to originate funding bills to the Senate, to the President, or to any "funding coordinator" which they might choose to name. They don't have the authority to delegate duties which the Constitution expressly gives to them. The same principle applies to the state constitution and the Board of Apportionment. Their constitutional authority does not give them the power to violate their constitutional authority.
This is a time-honored legal principle. Unfortunately Beebe and McDaniel are ignoring it and acting in an unprincipled manner. What is especially galling is their claim that they are doing this to "take the politics out of it" when in reality their actions simply serve to insulate the politics they are putting into it from the sterilizing force of daylight. And this violation is not a mere academic point. Your family will be living with the results of this process for a decade. We all see what they tried to do with the Fayetteville Finger. Will the people of this state be subjected to 135 such maps, drawn up in secrecy, rammed through without oversight, all in violation of the law?