LITTLE ROCK — Early drafts of new legislative district maps became public Friday. Board of Apportionment Director Joe Woodson said he had planned to post maps on the board’s website for public comment as early as Monday but released six maps to the media after a Senate map was leaked to political bloggers.
Woodson stressed that the maps are very early drafts and haven’t received any support.
“I just want to suppress everybody’s urge to read too much into this,” he said. “We’re 12 weeks away from our goal date.”
The board, made up of Gov. Mike Beebe, Secretary of State Mark Martin and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, is responsible for drawing Arkansas’ 100 state House of Representatives districts and 35 state Senate districts this year in light of 2010 Census data.
The board has set a goal of completing the process by Aug. 1. The board has tentatively scheduled seven meetings around the state for public comment on proposed maps.
Woodson said the first public meeting is 6 p.m. May 24 on the Arkansas State University campus in Jonesboro. Public comment can also be left at arkansasredistricting.org.
On Friday, Woodson gave the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette five Senate maps and one House map that had been drawn. He said he drew the initial map Wednesday.
“You’ve got to start somewhere,” he said.
Under the official 2010 Census population figures, each of the state Senate seats would represent about 83,312 people and each of the state House seats would represent about 29,159.
The map initially released Friday would expand westward the 24th Senate District in the southeast corner of Arkansas to include part of Calhoun, Union and Cleveland counties.
The 20th Senate District in west Arkansas expands toinclude all of Polk, Montgomery and Sevier counties as well as a portion of Scott and Yell counties.
Woodson said earlier in the week that population decline in that area would make it necessary to expand southern districts geographically.
The 10th Senate District in north Arkansas would extend south to include part of Cleburne and Van Buren counties, along with moving west to take in part of Baxter County.
In the fast-growing Springdale-Rogers-Fayetteville area in Northwest Arkansas, the 35th Senate District would shrink geographically with the 3rd Senate district reaching up higher into Washington County.
The 1st District in northArkansas would expand to include Newton and Searcy counties as well as more of Boone, part of Madison and the northeast corner of Van Buren County.
Several Senate districts in central Arkansas will shrink geographically because of population growth, including the 22nd, 33rd and 34th Districts. The 31st and 32nd Districts would expand.
Pulaski is still the most populous county in the state, with 382,748 people.
The board has met twice and representatives from all three of the constitutional offices got computers and software to begin drawing maps last week.
McDaniel said Friday that his office has just begun drawing maps.
Former state Rep. Timothy Hutchinson of Springdale, who is responsible for drawing maps for the secretary of state’s office, said Thursday that he began drawing maps in February and has several proposed maps complete.