General Assembly redistricting process raises concern in regards to splitting of minority areas

Politics

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Board of Apportionment met on Monday to approve the redistricting maps drawn for the 135 districts of the General Assembly.

This was the first time a public comment window was used in the process. Over 800 comments were submitted to the Board and there were some adjustments to the maps because of them.

“Really illustrates how important this 30-day comment period has been,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said.

Loiree Evans with Indivisible Little Rock said her organization had concerns about the maps when they were first released. She still has several, but she is glad the Board did consider comments.

“Very pleased to hear they did respond to Ft. Smith, that’s great. I’m glad they listened to the Ft. Smith voters but there’s still a number of districts we have some real concerns about,” Evans said.

Evans voiced concerns over some areas that are still split up. She mentioned Forrest City, Magnolia, and Jacksonville as areas where cities have been separated.

“Why were some of these high minority communities are being divided in half when they could’ve been reasonably kept whole?” Evans asked.

Governor Hutchinson mentioned there are 12 minority-majority districts in the state and the first-ever Latino-majority district and there are not fewer minority-majority districts than 2011 maps.

The Governor said changes were made to bring like-minded communities back together in Ft. Smith, North Jonesboro was added to the district with the rest of the city, and Mountain Home was previously split between Districts 4 and 5 but is now whole because of the public comments they received.

Governor Hutchinson said they tried to address as many concerns as they could.

“All of the concerns expressed have not been able to be adjusted and again there are broader reasons in terms of the entire map that constrained our actions,” Hutchinson said.

The Board of Apportionment unanimously approved both the House and Senate maps, and this will now open a 30-day window to allow for any legal challenges to the maps.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge believes the maps they approved will stand up to any lawsuit potentially brought forward.

“I look at these maps, these maps meet all of the requirements of federal law and meet the requirements of the Arkansas Constitution and they are fair, equal and in the best interest of the citizens of Arkansas,” Rutledge said.

Secretary of State John Thurston said each district will be posted on the redistricting website later in the week.

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