Which Proposed Congressional Map is Best for Arkansas?

As of 27 Sep. 2021, there have been fifteen congressional district maps released on the Arkansas House of Representatives’ website. So which one is the best, and which ones are gerrymandered garbage?

This is just my opinion, and the data I have ain’t as good as what the legislators have, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Redistricting is always a partisan issue, but I’m a member of the Conservative Worker’s Party, so I don’t have a vested interest in seeing a map that disproportionately benefits Republicans over Democrats or vice-versa.

What I do want to see, however, is a fair map. 28% of Arkansans voted for a Democrat in the last US House election — and that’s with one seat being an unopposed Republican — so I want to see one district (which represents about 25% of Arkansans) have the possibility to elect a Democrat (even if I disagree with their politics).

Republicans will get mad that I don’t want to disenfranchise more than a fourth of our state’s population, while Democrats will get mad I don’t want four Democrats (which is impossible, by the way). Regardless, I’m guaranteed to make someone mad, but I honestly don’t care.

Note: desktop users can hover over any image to get a closer look!

The Current Map

Current map

For reference: this is the current map. Although many assume it was gerrymandered by the Republicans, it was approved back in 2011 — when the Democrats held a trifecta.

The reason it’s so Republican is largely because Arkansans voted GOP at the federal level, but Democrat at the state-level, up until 2013.

Similar, but Different

Map from HB1959

The first map, from HB1959, was introduced by Rep. Speaks, a Republican.

It aims to look as similar to the current map as possible, while still accounting for population shifts.

It doesn’t split a single county and the partisan lean is roughly the same, with the Democrats only gaining 0.5% in district two (according to DRA data). The population deviation is 1.26%. It ain’t a great map, but it ain’t terrible either.

Basically Just HB1959, but Worse

Map from HB1960

The next map, from HB1960, was introduced by Rep. Ladyman, a Republican. It also aims to look similar to the current map.

The partisan lean is similar to HB1959, but district two is a little more Republican. It splits a few counties, yet somehow manages to achieve a higher population deviation at 1.71%.

I’m going to rank this one slightly below HB1959.

The Democrats’ Copy of HB1959

Map from HB1959

HB1961 was introduced by Rep. David Whitaker, a Democrat. For some reason it has a road-map overlay.

Although this map has a similar partisan lean to HB1959, it’s population deviation is 3.05% — which means I’m putting it at the bottom.

A Competitive District!?

Map from HB1962

Rep. Murdock, a Democrat, introduced HB1962, which is the only map thus far that includes a competitive district: number two, which has a slight Democratic lean of 50.68% — meaning either party could win here.

It also achieved a low population deviation of only 0.56% and splits zero counties! This map goes right to the top!

The Wrong Map…

Map from HB1963

HB1963 was introduced by Rep. Dotson, a Republican. The official map for this bill was somehow replaced by the map for SB723, so I had to draw it myself using DRA.

This bill looks like a compromise between HB1961 and HB1959. It’s population deviation is only 0.2% — which means I can forgive Dotson for splitting three counties. District two is a little bit more Republican in this one, but the population deviation means I’ll be ranking above those two.

Does He Know What He’s Doing?

Map from HB1964

Rep. Ray, a Republican, introduced HB1964, which looks similar to the current map, until you realize district four has cut district three off from one and two. It has a similar partisan lean to HB1960, but somehow managed to get a population deviation of 8.86%!

It goes straight to the bottom; this wouldn’t stand a chance in court.

HB1962, but Worse

Map from HB1965

Rep. Vivian Flowers, a Democrat, introduced HB1965.

It’s similar to HB1962, but manages to have a higher population deviation of 0.95% while splitting Pulaski and Lonoke counties and giving district 2 less of a Democratic lean (but it’s still competitive). I’ll rank it as a worse version of HB1962.

Onto the Senate Bills

Map from SB720

Moving onto the the Senate’s bills, SB720 was introduced by Senator Mark Johnson (no relation), who’s a Republican.

SB720 splits zero counties and looks aesthetically pleasing. It has similar partisan leans to HB1961, with a lower population deviation of 1.62%.

Cracking the Democratic Vote

Map from SB721

SB721, was introduced by Senator Hester, a Republican. It got a bit of press lately for splitting Pulaski county into three congressional districts — an obvious attempt to gerrymander the county by “cracking” the Democratic vote there.

Republicans argue they have to split a county to get the population levelled out, but it’s population deviation of 1.58% says otherwise.

Partisan lean map of Pulaski county with SB721's borders

Taking one look at the precinct partisan lean map tells you all you need to know about why the borders are where they are. Ray’s map is still worse, but SB721 is a close second.

Splits Pulaski County Without Gerrymandering

The map from SB722

Senator Alan Clark, a Republican, introduced SB722. It’s similar to SB721 in that it splits Pulaski county, but it doesn’t go out of it’s way to crack the Democratic vote. It’s population deviation is 0.27%, making it a decent map.

Not HB1963

The map from SB723

This is the map listed under HB1963, but it’s actually SB723, Senator Clark’s second map. It’s basically SB721 on Steroids!

Its partisan lean is the most Republican thus far, with district two’s GOP support at 58.93%. Its population deviation is only 0.85%, but I’m putting it below SB721 for gerrymandering.

A Lot of Unnecessary Work

The map from SB724

SB724, introduced by Democratic Senator Leding, is the weirdest looking thus far.

It splits a lot of counties (which made it hard to put into DRA), but the population deviation is only 0.84%. District two is competitive in this map, but still Republican. It ain’t terrible, but there are better maps. This map looks like a lot of unnecessary work to me.

SB723, but Gerrymandered

The map from SB725

This map is courtesy of Senator Breanne Davis, a Republican. SB725 looks similar to HB1963, but splits Pulaski county into two districts.

Its partisan lean is similar to the highly gerrymandered SB723, but it’s population deviation is only 0.42%, so I’ll put it slightly above that.

The Senate’s Take on HB1962

The map from SB727

Skipping SB726 for some reason, SB727 is a bill introduced by Democratic Senator Clarke Tucker. It’s similar to HB1962 in that it splits zero counties and allows for district two to be competitive.

This map, however, has a larger population deviation of 1.55%, and district two is a little less Democratic, so I’ll put it below HB1962.

Another HB1962 Copy

The map from SB728

SB728 is the last map! Introduced by Senator Elliot, a Democrat, it’s similar to HB1962, but has a larger population deviation of 0.82%, meaning I’ll put it between that and SB727.

The Final Ranking

Here’s a list of each map, from my favorite to least favorite:

RankMapSponsorPartyDistrict 2Pop. Dev.Counties Split
1HB1962MurdockDD+4.060.56%0
2SB728ElliotDD+4.250.87%0
3HB1965FlowersDD+1.880.95%2
4SB727TuckerDD+1.561.55%0
5HB1963DotsonRR+12.60.20%3
6SB724LedingDR+7.870.84%12
7SB722ClarkRR+14.720.27%1
8HB1959SpeaksRR+10.711.26%0
9HB1960LadymanRR+11.091.71%4
10SB720JohnsonRR+10.361.63%0
11HB1961WhitakerDR+10.713.05%0
12SB721HesterRR+15.231.58%1
13SB725DavisRR+19.760.42%3
14SB723ClarkRR+20.920.85%1
15HB1964RayRR+12.738.86%2

Rep. Murdock’s map wins! It allows for district two to be competitive, while having a population deviation of only 0.56%. It ain’t the most Democrat, and it ain’t got the lowest PD, but it’s got the best balance of the two.

District two should ideally elect a Democrat to represent the 28% of Arkansans who vote Democrat, which is why the top four all have a Democratic lean. This ain’t me being partisan — again, I ain’t a Democrat — it’s me being fair.

According to DRA: the population deviation should be no more than 0.75% — but only four maps meet that criteria. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if the courts let a 10% PD slide.

Regardless of what the best map is, Rep. Ray’s map is definitely the worst — how did he manage to get an 8.86% population deviation!? Was he trying to make a bad map, or does he have no clue what he’s doing?

No hard feelings, Ray, but you’re bad at this.

Read about why we should abolish congressional districts!

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