Board of Apportionment advances legislative maps featuring Arkansas’ first majority Latino district

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 1,710 views 

Arkansas would have its first majority Latino House district, while its total number of majority-minority House districts would increase from 11 to 13 under House and Senate maps approved by the three-member Board of Apportionment Oct. 29.

The board, consisting of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, and Secretary of State John Thurston, advanced the new district maps during a meeting at the State Capitol. The Board will reconvene Nov. 29 after 30 days of public comment.

Legal challenges can be filed from Nov. 29 to Dec. 29, Hutchinson said. If there are none, the maps will take effect the next day.

The maps can be viewed at this link.

The maps are redrawn every 10 years as required by the Arkansas Constitution because of population shifts recorded by the U.S. Census.

The number of majority-minority House districts would increase from 11 to 13, under the plan recommended. Proposed District 9 in the Springdale area would have 52.07% majority Latino population, making it the state’s first such district. The new African-American-majority district would be District 66 in eastern Pulaski County, which would have a 51.27% majority African-American population.

The total number of majority-minority Senate districts would remain at four. That number was reduced from five after the 2011 maps were drawn.

Among the criteria guiding the Board was avoiding racial discrimination, compactness, contiguousness, keeping communities of interest together, and not offering preferential treatment to either party.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Betty Dickey, whom the Board hired as its redistricting coordinator, said the Board did not input political data into the system or draw the maps to benefit a party.

She said there “was no gerrymandering. There are weird shapes to counties, therefore there are weird shapes to districts.”

Dickey said the number of whole counties contained in a single House district would increase from 13 to 22 under the new map The number of whole counties included in a Senate district would increase from 37 to 42.

The Board tried to maintain existing districts while maintaining “continuity of representation.” Only one district would pit incumbents against each other – proposed House District 62 in eastern Arkansas, whose land mass is currently represented by Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna; Rep. David Tollett, R-Lexa; and Rep. Mark McElroy, R-Tillar. Its population is 54.45% African-American.

In a state with just over 3 million people, the 100 new House districts ideally each would have 30,115 residents, while the 35 new Senate districts each would have 86,024.

Dickey said 10% population deviation between the largest and smallest districts is generally considered to be acceptable. The 2021 maps would have a 7.9% deviation in the House and 4.99% deviation in the Senate. The 2011 maps had 8.36% deviation in the House and 8.2% in the Senate.

The meeting Oct. 29 followed eight public meetings held around the state.