Sunday, July 10, 2011

Balderdash on Hispanic-Majority Legislative District

"Balderdash! The hilarious bluffing game." It's State Rep. Charlie Collins' of Springdale (and parts of Fayetteville) turn to play, and he is claiming that Federal Law might require the state to gerrymander a minority-majority Hispanic district in NWA. I call "Balderdash!"

Please view the applicable section of the Voting Rights Act for yourself. There is simply no history of discrimination and disenfranchisement of legal citizens of Hispanic descent comparable to that suffered by African Americans. Nor is there anything in that U.S. code I just linked to that would justify racially gerrymandering a legislative district up here. Check it for yourself. Rep. Collins, or anyone else for that matter, is free to point out the language in that code which legally requires this. This is neglecting the whole argument of whether or not the entire act is constitutional, or is good for race-relations.

It is true that Hispanics in NWA do not participate in the political process as much as residents from other groups. One possible explanation is discrimination, another possible explanation is that this is not their country! There may be as many Marshallese Islanders in east Springdale that are here legally as their are Hispanics.

Springdale and Rogers both have ward systems for their city councils. They have minority-majority districts there, and it has not made any difference. A lot of them don't want to get involved with this mess we call American politics.

Until someone provides statistical proof that there is 1) an unreasonably low participation rate of LEGAL CITIZENS of Hispanic descent and 2) a COMPACT district that is minority majority could be made, then the requirements for making such a district have not been met even if there were a history of voter disenfranchisement to base such a requirement on. There isn't.

There is even more than one way under the law to "cheat" minorities. One way is "fracturing", that is splitting them up with the goal of keeping them from getting influence or control over any one district, and "packing", which is doing the opposite. It's concentrating them all in one district so that representatives from surrounding districts are not troubled with them. So making the district could be considered just as much a trick to limit their influence as not making it.

Why not just make compact districts that keep interests from communities together, and let the chips fall where they may? That was what the federal intervention was originally meant to try to do anyway.

Look, everything I have heard about Rep. Collins is that he is generally a good guy. I believe it. But I don't believe that there is any compelling legal reason to racially gerrymander a district in NWA, and if anyone, Collins included, claims there might be then it is incumbent on him to show us where that is in the code. Otherwise "federal law is forcing me" becomes code language for "The people who put me here don't want this, but I am going to claim I have no choice and do it anyway."

Collins would no doubt benefit from losing those Democrat-voting areas from his district, but I also know that a couple of big wheels from Springdale are pushing this. Archie Schaffer from Tyson foods and Chamber of Commerce head Perry Webb for another. The will of the ordinary middle-class citizen is being ignored in this rush to start judging people by "the color of their skin" rather than "the content of their character." And that's not a dream, it's a nightmare.


Blogger mary kathleen waldner said...

Again, I ask Rep.Collins: what's in this for you? what deals have you cut, with whom & when will we see the pay offs?

12:19 PM, July 11, 2011  

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