Members of the Little Rock Board of Directors voted Tuesday to adopt a new map of the city's seven wards, after they had opted to effectively sideline Mayor Frank Scott Jr. on the redistricting process this fall following the 2020 census.
The resolution on the new map was approved in a voice vote.
The new map makes slight adjustments to the ward boundaries that have existed for the past decade to account for population shifts, but keeps each ward largely intact.
Residents in each ward elect an individual to the city board. Additionally, the board's structure provides for three at-large representatives who are elected citywide.
Redistricting takes place every 10 years following the nationwide census. In 2020, the census found Little Rock gained over 9,000 residents for a new record-high population of approximately 202,500.
Under the new map, the westernmost boundary of Ward 1 will now extend to South University Avenue, meaning the ward that encompasses the downtown Little Rock core will absorb some residents who were previously constituents of Ward 2.
As a result of the change, Ward 2's finger of territory that stretched north to touch the interstate has been excised, and the south-central Little Rock ward now stretches farther southwest.
A slice of Ward 3 will now extend below Interstate 630 to West 12th Street.
Little Rock's southwestern district, Ward 7, has crept northwest, absorbing a section of the city's western edge from what was Ward 6, which now is slightly more compact except for a thin piece that will eat into territory that was part of the populous Ward 5.
City board members on Oct. 19 voted to give responsibility for the redistricting process following the most recent census to City Manager Bruce Moore. Vice Mayor Lance Hines, who represents Ward 5, sponsored the ordinance.
Moore and municipal planning staff ultimately pursued a less-radical ward restructuring plan compared to one of two maps initially put forward by Scott.
In his earlier correspondence with board members, Scott had signaled he favored more substantial changes to the ward boundaries. In a list of his stated priorities, Scott targeted Interstate 630, the city's main east-west highway.
"We must eliminate I-630 as a dividing line in our community with an eye to crossing that barrier for wards through the heart of the City," Scott wrote to board members in early October.
One day before they voted to give Moore the redistricting responsibility, Scott had submitted to them two proposed maps. One sought to maintain the structure of wards and keep each city director in his or her ward, Scott wrote. Another map relied on his redistricting principles, he said.
Among other boundary adjustments, Scott's map of new wards would have dissolved wards 3 and 4 in the city's northwest quadrant in favor of redrawn wards dubbed "Midtown" and "North Central."
The mayor's proposed map drew criticism at the time from City Director Kathy Webb, who represents Ward 3.
Because of the new Little Rock population figure from the 2020 census, city officials were aiming to have 28,941 residents in each ward, or at least to stay close to that figure.
According to Little Rock Planning Manager Walter Malone, minor changes were made to the boundaries of wards 1, 3 and 4 in light of public comments on the city manager's proposed map.
An area north of Cantrell Road from Interstate 430 to Jimerson Creek would remain in Ward 3, instead of shifting to Ward 4, and an area east of South Pine Street that runs along West 12th Street up to Interstate 630 would remain part of Ward 1, instead of shifting to Ward 3, Malone said via email Tuesday.
Both of the areas modified after the public meetings "would keep areas in the Wards they are in today," Malone wrote.