Both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature on Wednesday passed redistricting bills that would divide the state’s most populous county among three congressional districts.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 743 by state Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, on a 23-10 vote. On the other side of the Capitol, the House passed the identical House Bill 1982 by state Rep. Nelda Speaks, R-Mountain Home, on a 59-30 vote.
Each decade, the Legislature is tasked with reconfiguring the state’s lines for U.S. representatives based on the latest census data. The issue of whether to divide counties to account for population changes in different regions to keep each district close to the same population size has been contentious, and lawmakers have debated redistricting bills over the past two weeks.
The proposed legislation would divide Pulaski County, now located entirely within the 2nd Congressional District, among the 1st, 2nd and 4th congressional districts. It would also split Sebastian County, which contains the state’s third-largest city Fort Smith, between the 3rd and 4th congressional districts.
Proponents of the bills said the redrawn map has low population deviations, while opponents objected that the proposed lines separate majority-minority areas of Pulaski County from the rest of the county.
More details in Thursday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.