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Date set for maps of voting districts

by Sarah D. Wire | June 15, 2011 at 4:48 a.m.

— The three-member panel in charge of with redrawing the state’s legislative districts has set a date to provide final drafts of the new maps.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel sent a letter with the dates to the other members of the Board of Apportionment - Gov. Mike Beebe and Secretary of State Mark Martin - on Tuesday.

The board is responsible for drawing up Arkansas’ 100 state House of Representative districts and 35 state Senate districts. Legislative districts are redrawn after each decennial census to reflect changes in the state’s population.

The board agreed to take a final vote on new legislative districts at 9:30 a.m. July 29 at the Capitol.

According to the letter from McDaniel, draft versions will be made available by 4 p.m. July 19 on the board’s website, www.arkansasredistricting.org.

It will likely be the first time the public sees maps produced by the attorney general and governor’s offices. The secretary of state’s office released a series of maps in May. The board’s executive director, Joe Woodson, also produced drafts in May.

No additional drafts have been released since the regional public hearings began in late May.

The three-member board is split politically. Beebe and Mc-Daniel are Democrats. Martin is a Republican.

During the process there’s been criticism from the two major political parties.

The Democratic Party has criticized Martin for purchasing a vehicle with Board of Apportionment funds. He has repaid the board from his office budget and has kept the vehicle to help with redistricting. The Democratic Party was still questioning how the vehicle was helping redistricting efforts in a new release Tuesday.

The GOP has alleged that the lack of maps from McDaniel and Beebe is an attempt by the two politicians to keep the public from having input on their plans.

Beebe and McDaniel have said they want the plan to include public comment and don’t plan to create drafts until the public meetings are done.

Martin spokesman Alex Reed said he is not sure if the office will produce more maps before July 19.

McDaniel spokesman Aaron Sadler said the attorney general will likely produce a draft on or slightly before the July 19 deadline.

Beebe spokesman Matt De-Cample said the governor’s office will likely produce a single version of both the House and Senate map for public comment.

“At that point I don’t think that we’re going to put out an array of maps. That's part of the reason we are waiting,” DeCample said.

Board staff will hold another public comment meeting July 25 in Little Rock before board members vote on a final map July 29. Public comment can also be left at the board’s website.

“We have to balance getting as much comment as we can with trying to accelerate that process,” DeCample said. “You don’t want to drag this out and draw it out further during the summer.”

Board staff members have held four public meetings to discuss potential changes, the most recent one being Tuesday night in Fayetteville.

The board will hold three more: in Dickinson Hall on the UALR campus in Little Rock on June 21, at the Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas campus in Helena on June 28, and in Gardner Lecture Hall at the University of Arkansas in Fort Smith July 7.

Each meeting is scheduled to last from 6-8 p.m.

Arkansas, Pages 9 on 06/15/2011

Print Headline: Date set for maps of voting districts

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