Residents: Don't gerrymander our districts

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Representatives with the Arkansas Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General's office met with voters Tuesday evening to discuss the redistricting of legislative maps. By law, states are required to redraw legislative boundaries after the federal census is taken. This past census shows a majority of Arkansans live in the central, northwestern and northeastern part of the state. Joe Woodson with the Board of Apportionment told a group of about 50 people Tuesday night the state is looking for public input on the maps.

"We're going to be reviewing some maps and the maps have been drawn for the state senate and the house I believe, and they are an attempt to see that every citizen in Arkansas has equal representation," said Rep. Butch Wilkins, Arkansas House District 74.

To see the proposed maps for yourself, click here.

"It's solely a numbers game. Each district needs to reach a certain amount of numbers in the house and the state," said Wilkins.

According to Woodson, the official population of Arkansas in 2010 is 2,915,918. He said it's the board's responsibility to ensure each legislator represents 29,159, give or take 5%.

"The population grew this time according to the census. We do this every ten years," said Wilkins. "That's causing some adjustments and some legislators will be pleased with the districts and some won't."

Congressional districts were approved more than a month ago.

Woodson said some areas of the state gained in population density while others lost residents. He said that will require districts with fewer voters to reach into areas of higher density. He told the audience at the ASU Student Union Auditorium the maps are being drawn with special software that can look at various levels of population on a map to make a district.

Some audience members voiced concerns that legislators will gerrymander districts by dividing them in odd ways. Other members voiced their displeasure with certain maps.

Woodson said none of the proposed maps are final.

"There's going to be some lost in Craighead County. There will be some other districts that come into portions of Craighead County that take away the excess number of residents," said Wilkins.

Wilkins told Region 8 News Tuesday Craighead County will more than likely have to give up 9,000 people to a nearby county. Rep. Homer Lenderman of Brookland said his district will more than likely lose 3,500 residents.

The Board of Apportionment was created in 1936 by Amendment 23 to the Arkansas Constitution. Wilkins said it's important to pay attention to the redistricting process.

"The lines will be redrawn and you may be in one district now and next time around, you may be in a different one," said Wilkins.

Tuesday's meeting was the first of seven public hearings in the state of Arkansas. The board is made of Governor Mike Beebe, Secretary of State Mark Martin and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.

Woodson said the board has until July to make a decision on which legislative map will be used for the next ten years. The last meeting will be held July 6th.

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