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Redistricting for Arkansas' General Assembly seats, explained

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Nyssa Kruse | November 4, 2021 at 1:34 p.m.
FILE — The state Capitol is shown in this file photo.

This story is a part of The Article, your guide to Arkansas news and culture, presented by the Democrat-Gazette. Sign up for The Article's weekly newsletter here or to see stories that have appeared in past newsletters, go here.

Arkansas’ Board of Apportionment accepted new legislative district maps last week, kicking off a 30-day public comment period.

The maps create two new majority-minority districts, including Arkansas' first predominantly Hispanic district, as well as put three sitting lawmakers in one district.

Back up: What is legislative redistricting?

After each census, the Board of Apportionment, which consists of the governor, secretary of state and attorney general, redraws the boundaries for seats in the General Assembly.

The main goal is for the districts for each of the the 100 members of the Arkansas House of Representatives and for each of the 35 members of the Arkansas Senate to represent roughly the same number of people. Go here to read more about the process.

What exactly happened last week?

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Secretary of State John Thurtson voted to accept new maps at a meeting Friday morning.

The state is now in a 30-day public comment period. Public comments can be made online here and comments from others can be viewed online here.

What are the maps like?

The new maps factor in population growth in Northwest Arkansas and Central Arkansas by adding seats in those regions while geographically expanding districts in the south and east.

The new majority-Hispanic district encompasses eastern Springdale in Northwest Arkansas.

The maps also create a new district in eastern Pulaski County that is 51% Black, increasing the total number of majority-minority House districts from 11 to 13.

One new House district in eastern Arkansas puts three sitting representatives together: Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna, Rep. Mark McElroy, R-Tillar, and Rep. David Tollett, R-Lexa. The district includes all of Lee and Phillips counties as well as parts of St. Francis, Monroe, Arkansas and Desha counties.

Go here to see an interactive map of the Senate districts, and to see an interactive map of the House districts, go here.

What has the response been to the map?

The governor called the maps “historic” in promoting “equal access” for all groups in the state.

However, some advocates are concerned because the majority-Hispanic district draws from a current lawmaker's district without including her residence and by the way the maps affect existing majority-minority districts.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas advised residents to review the maps and make their voices heard.

What happens next?

The board is scheduled to reconvene Nov. 29 to incorporate feedback and make any technical adjustments before giving final approval.

After that, the maps become law Dec. 30, barring any legal barrier in the interim. The new districts will apply to lawmakers elected in 2022 who will take office in January 2023.

Read more about the maps and concerns from some minority-rights advocates from reporter Rachel Herzog.

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