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Redistricting Comment Period Open for AR House, Senate Maps

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Wednesday, November 3, 2021   

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The Arkansas Board of Apportionment (BOA) is seeking public comment after revealing its proposed state House and Senate voting-district maps last week.

Some observers say the redistricting process should be more transparent. With the new maps the BOA is considering, the state is poised to gain its first Latino majority-minority district, located in Northwest Arkansas.

Bonnie Miller, president of the League of Women Voters of Arkansas, said although the board hosted some public meetings across the state to hear redistricting concerns, most of the mapmaking work was still done behind closed doors.

"The actual drawing of the maps was not transparent or open, and nothing that they did for the actual drawing of the maps was part of public record," Miller pointed out. "So while they held these meetings and listened to some different people around the state, we don't really know what they did with those comments."

In the proposed maps, no Senate incumbents will be forced to run against each other. In the House, creating a new district will result in three incumbents being drawn into the same district in eastern Arkansas.

The public comment period is open through Nov. 28. The Board of Apportionment reconvenes Nov. 29 to integrate the public feedback into the maps before final approval.

Kristin Foster, Citizens First Congress outreach coordinator with the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, said she agrees with the sentiment of the board's Redistricting Coordinator Justice Betty Dickey, who said it is impossible to create new maps that will make everyone happy.

However, Foster hopes district lines in Arkansas will one day be drawn by groups without political affiliations.

"What we'd love to see for Arkansas is redistricting put in the hands of an independent redistricting commission that is not controlled by partisan elected officials who have a vested interest in the outcome," Foster asserted. "We'd rather see this being handled by people from the community."


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