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Arkansas’ legislative + congressional redistricting processes, explained

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette , Nyssa Kruse | September 14, 2021 at 9:53 a.m.
Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage, speaks on House Bill 1662 during the Arkansas House of Representatives general assembly meeting Thursday, March 11, 2021 at the State Capitol in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

After each census, Arkansas redraws the boundaries for seats in the General Assembly as well as the boundaries of the districts for its seats in the United States Congress.

Here are the basics on how the processes work for each.

Legislative redistricting

The legislative districts are decided by the Board of Apportionment, which consists of the governor, secretary of state and attorney general.

The board and its staff use census data to redraw the 100 districts of the Arkansas House of Representatives and the 35 districts of the Arkansas Senate so districts within each chamber represent roughly the same number of people.

According to the board’s website, there are several criteria that guide the creation of districts, aside from equal representation. They include:

Geographic continuity, so a district is not broken into pieces

Geographic compactness, because highly irregularly shaped districts are often not approved by courts as they point to ulterior motives in districting

Minimizing the split of political subdivisions, such as dividing a city or county

Avoiding pairing incumbents so that current officeholders do not face off in an election

Maintaining communities that share an interest, such as keeping an entire military base in one district

The Board of Apportionment is currently at work drawing up proposed district boundaries.

Betty Dickey, coordinator of the Board of Apportionment said she hopes proposed district maps can be drawn by October. Dickey said the board would like to hold meetings for public input on the maps before voting on them but can’t guarantee that will happen.

The board has already held meetings in the past few months around the state to receive public input ahead of drawing the districts.

Public comments can also be submitted online at

Congressional redistricting

Drawing boundaries for the state’s federal congressional districts is the responsibility of the General Assembly.

Like the redrawing of legislative boundaries, making sure each Congressional district contains about the same number of people is the foremost goal of redistricting.

The number of districts in the state will remain at four based on the population count from 2020, but the distribution of the population has changed since 2010, shifting away from rural areas toward more urban areas and Northwest Arkansas.

Members of the General Assembly will work with the Bureau of Legislative Research to create proposals for where district lines should go and submit them to the assembly for consideration.

The Senate and House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committees are scheduled to meet jointly at 1 p.m. on Sept. 20, 23 and 27 to consider the proposals and hear public input.

According to the same schedule, released by Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, and Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, the General Assembly is expected to fully reconvene Sept. 29.

Hickey said he hopes the General Assembly will reconvene only for three days to vote on redistricting before adjourning the 2021 session.


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