LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday effectively approved a new U.S. House map that critics say weakens minority voters’ influence in the state by splitting the Little Rock area among three congressional districts.
The Republican governor allowed the new congressional map to become law without his signature, a move that expresses opposition to the bill without forcing a veto fight with the Legislature.
The bill passed last week by the majority-Republican Legislature splits Pulaski County among the 1st, 2nd, and 4th congressional districts. Heavily Democratic Pulaski County, which includes the Little Rock area, is currently in the 2nd District.
“While the percentage of minority populations for three of the four congressional districts do not differ that much from the current percentages, the removal of minority areas in Pulaski County into two different congressional districts does raise some concerns,” Hutchinson said at a news conference.
The Republican governor, however, said he decided to not veto the new map out of deference to legislators and the political process.
“This will enable those who wish to challenge the redistricting plan in court to do so,” he said.
Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to flip the Republican-held 2nd District in recent years. Republicans hold all four of the state’s U.S. House seats.
Supporters of the redistricting map say splitting the county makes sense since Pulaski County is in the middle of the state and helps limit the number of counties divided. Under the new map, Sebastian County in west Arkansas is the only other county divided among districts.
Previously, five counties in the state were split up.
Democrats have said the plan unnecessarily moves predominantly Black and Hispanic precincts out of Pulaski County, making a Republican-leaning district even redder. They also note the map moves predominantly white Cleburne County into the district.