Arkansas House majority-minority districts will increase from 11 to 13 if the proposal is approved.
The Arkansas Board of Apportionment unveiled draft maps for Arkansas House and Senate districts this morning. If approved, District 9, which includes a large portion of east Springdale, would become the state’s first majority Hispanic district.
Majority-minority districts in the Arkansas House will increase from 11 to 13 under the proposed maps, while those districts remain at four in the Senate. Majority-minority districts were an area of concern for Gov. Asa Hutchinson during the redistricting process.
“I wanted to make sure as we reviewed these and went through the process that those majority-minority districts do not decline because that is a key part of our important efforts historically to improve access and representation for our minority populations,” he said.
Hutchinson is a member of the Arkansas Board of Apportionment along with Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Secretary of State John Thurston. The board’s job is to redraw boundaries for 100 House and 35 Senate districts following the release of new U.S. Census data each decade.
One goal of the redistricting process is to make sure each district has roughly the same amount of people in it. Based on new population data, each House district should have around 30,100 people. Senate districts should include approximately 86,000.
When updating district boundaries, officials must also be mindful not to create districts based on race and to avoid dividing counties as much as possible. Opponents of new Congressional districts approved by the Arkansas Legislature have criticized lawmakers for doing both of these things when deciding to split Pulaski County between three districts. The communities most affected by the change are Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
Former Chief Justice Betty Dickey was appointed the Arkansas Board of Apportionment coordinator July 7. She led eight public meetings across the state in July and August where she gathered feedback from Arkansans to help inform the redistricting maps.
“We learned a lot and I think that the people who came did. They were from all walks of life,” Dickey said.
The board today unanimously accepted both the House and Senate maps as recommended. The public now has 30 days to provide feedback. On Nov. 29, the board will reconvene to consider public comments and if there are no objections, its members will give final approval. Legal challenges can then be filed from Nov. 29 to Dec. 29. If there are no legal impediments, the new maps will become official Dec. 30, 2021.
You can visit www.arkansasredistricting.org to view the proposed maps or to make public comments.