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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, speaks during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Tuesday, July 19, 2016. - Photo by AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Thursday rejected, for the second time, the ballot title for a proposed constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission to draw Arkansas' legislative and congressional district boundaries.

Rutledge first shot down the proposed amendment's title last month, citing ambiguities in the text. She noted additional unclear terms Friday.

Little Rock attorney David Couch, who wrote the proposal, said the objections raised in Friday's opinion are different from those raised in the first rejection.

If passed, the amendment would create a seven-member body to redistrict Arkansas' General Assembly and congressional seat boundaries each decade after the U.S. Census. The redistricting process for state legislative districts is currently done by the governor, attorney general and secretary of state; the state Legislature draws the congressional district lines.

[INTERACTIVE MAP: See how state’s districts have evolved over time]

Proponents of measures like Couch's argue that independent commissions minimize the chance that districts will be gerrymandered, or drawn in a manner favorable to one particular political party or candidate.

Couch, who has drafted several successful constitutional amendments and initiated acts in recent years, including the medical marijuana amendment approved in 2016, said he plans to resubmit a tweaked proposal.

"We'll try again and try to address the issues," he said in a Friday phone interview.

Couch and others hoping to get their proposals on November's ballot face several looming deadlines. Once they receive approval on ballot title wording from Rutledge, they must publish the proposal in a newspaper by June 6. By July 6, they must submit the proposal with petitions bearing 84,859 valid signatures of registered voters to the secretary of state.

The attorney general often rejects the first few drafts of a proposed ballot title.

Rutledge on Friday said the description was unclear of the requirements for those who serve on the independent commission.

She also expressed concerns about the length of Couch's proposed title and whether the Arkansas Supreme Court would consider it short enough to be easily understood at the voting booth.

"Over the years, experience has shown a direct correlation between the length and complexity of initiated measures and their susceptibility to a successful ballot title challenge," Rutledge wrote.

Earlier this week, a group appealed to the state Supreme Court after Rutledge denied their ballot title four times. The group is trying to get a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow the creation of four casinos in the state.

In the lawsuit, the group -- Driving Arkansas Forward -- said Rutledge took a "strained reading" of its ballot title.

Couch filed a similar suit against Rutledge in 2016 over her rejection of a ballot measure that would impose new campaign finance and ethics restrictions on public officials. That suit was quickly dismissed.

Metro on 04/21/2018

Print Headline: District-drawing bid rejected again by AG

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  • RBear
    April 21, 2018 at 7:48 a.m.

    Keep trying, David Couch. This is an issue that Arkansas needs to help maintain fair elections and governing. While Arkansas doesn't have as many gerrymandered districts as Texas or North Carolina, any gerrymandered district is bad. This would apply to either party who sought to use their advantage in the legislature to skew elections to their favor and falsely represent the citizens of a district.
    ...
    From the state's redistricting site, the following points should be maintained in drawing districts.
    - The Courts have held that geographically compact districts are ideal. For example, a district shaped like a circle or a square would be “geographically compact.” In practice, most districts have some irregularity in shape; nevertheless, the more bizarre the district shape, the less likely it is to be approved by the Courts.
    - Preservation of communities of interest describes the goal of maintaining a group of people in a specific geographic area where those individuals share common interests, i.e., common economic, social, cultural, ethnic, religious or even political interests.
    - With respect to partisan gerrymanders, the United States Supreme Court has indicated that it is possible to bring a lawsuit regarding partisan gerrymanders; however, the Supreme Court has not identified what is or is not legal with respect to partisan gerrymanders. As a result, there is a great deal of uncertainty about partisan gerrymanders and, as such, they should be minimized.
    ...
    Currently, the commission is extremely partisan, made up of the governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general. Couch's ballot proposal would offer a more balanced look at redistricting.

  • KnuckleBall
    April 21, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.

    She is not rejecting this for any other reason than politics. She is a JOKE as AG.

  • RobertBolt
    April 21, 2018 at 8:36 a.m.

    Gerrymandering is arguably the primary reason for our dysfunctional, polarized, unresponsive government and polity.

  • 23cal
    April 21, 2018 at 11:04 a.m.

    Gerrymandering needs to be addressed and fixed on a nationwide basis, along with campaign finance reform. A lot of problems would be solved and the electorate would be better served.

  • sjmays
    April 21, 2018 at 4:06 p.m.

    Don't hold your breath.

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