The Arkansas Board of Apportionment – the three-member panel that will redraw legislative district lines for the next decade – met Monday (May 24) to organize for the monumental decennial task.
The board, which includes Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, and Secretary of State John Thurston, is all-Republican for the first time in modern history.
Once a decade, the panel is charged with reconfiguring Senate and House districts to conform with population shifts to ensure equal legislative representation. Last completed in 2011 after the 2010 U.S. Census, this year’s redistricting has been delayed due to problems with tardy Census data.
At Monday’s meeting, Rutledge said she expected to receive the new data by Sept. 30 this year. The panel also agreed to complete its business by Dec. 31, 2021. A decade ago, it took roughly five months to present final maps for approval for new House and Senate lines.
In other business, Gov. Hutchinson proposed Betty Dickey, former Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, to serve as redistricting coordinator. There was not a vote on the candidacy, but members discussed having a coordinator hired by July 15.
While the Board of Apportionment sets new legislative districts, the state Legislature actually redraws Congressional district lines. The House and Senate State Agencies committees draw the initial districts, but a majority of both chambers must approve the final map.