Arkansas
Congressional BoundariesDrawn by legislature
State BoundariesDrawn by politician commission
Governor's PartyRepublican
Legislative PartyRepublican

Census-related Redistricting Timeline Delays

Congressional

Alert:
Elevated

State Legislative

Alert:
Elevated

Process

Apportionment Board

Arkansas' state legislative districts are drawn by an Apportionment Board consisting of the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State.

State Legislature

Arkansas' congressional districts are drawn by the Legislature by ordinary statute, and are subject to the Governor's veto. The Legislature has the power to override the Governor's veto with a simple majority in each chamber.

Criteria

In addition to the federal requirements of one person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act, Arkansas’ state constitution (Art. VIII § 3) requires that state Senate districts be contiguous and keep counties whole. The Apportionment Board lists other criteria to consider, including compactness, maintaining the core of existing districts, respecting communities of interest, and continuity of representation (avoiding pairing incumbents); these are not required by law. 

There are no state law requirements for drawing congressional districts.

Public Input

While no public hearings are currently required under Arkansas law, the Apportionment Board held seven hearings between May and July in the 2011 cycle. The Board also actively sought public comment on its website. It is likely that there will be a similar timeline for public input in 2021.

2011 Cycle

A federal court upheld Arkansas' 2011 state legislative plans against racial gerrymandering claims in Jeffers v. Beebe. The court found that the plaintiffs failed to prove that the reduction of the Black voting-age population in Senate District 24 was a product of vote dilution under the Voting Rights Act or intentional discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause.

Issues

Pitfalls

Single-party control of the redistricting process increases the risk of partisan and racial gerrymandering. Currently, all three members of the Redistricting Board are Republican, all eight members of the Senate State Agencies and Government Affairs Committee, which oversees election-related legislation, are Republican, and six of the eight members of the House Elections Committee are Republican. Republicans also hold large majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Potential Reform

A proposed redistricting initiative, sponsored by Little Rock attorney David Couch and Arkansas Voters First, would have established an independent citizens' redistricting commission for both congressional and state legislative districts. The public health crisis made signature gathering much more difficult and led to a lawsuit to change legal requirements. While the District Court ruled for AVF, the 8th Circuit overruled saying that the lower court had applied the wrong legal standard. Ultimately, AVF succeeded in submitting the requisite signatures to the Secretary of State, who then invalidated the signatures claiming AVF failed to meet requirements for paid canvassers. The state Supreme Court removed this proposed initiative from the ballot. Still, the amendment may serve as a template for future reform efforts.

  • This proposed amendment would create an independent nine-member commission. To summarize the selection process, a panel of three retired state appellate judges would first narrow down to three diverse pools of thirty applicants divided by party affiliation (largest party, second-largest, unaffiliated). The Governor and four legislative leaders could then eliminate up to two applicants from each pool. Lastly, the judges panel would randomly select three applicants per pool until each congressional district was represented on the commission.
  • The initiative would also prohibit partisanship in districting on a statewide basis, promote competition where feasible, and protect racial and language minority groups' right to vote.
  • Lastly, the commission would have to conduct at least one public hearing per congressional district with adequate notice. It also would create a website to publish all commission work products, as well as alternate and final maps.

Actions

In 2021, participate in public hearings on redistricting.

  • Obtain Arkansas redistricting data from OpenPrecincts.
  • Start to plan out what defines your community – whether it’s a shared economic interest, school districts, or other social or other cultural, historical, or economic interests – and how that can be represented on a map. This will come in handy once the Board and Legislature start collecting feedback.
  • Use software tools such as Dave's Redistricting App and Districtr to draw district maps showing either (a) what a fair map would look like, or (b) where the community you believe should be better represented is located.

Contacts

Arkansas Voters First

League of Women Voters of Arkansas

ACLU of Arkansas

Sources

All About Redistricting

NCSL

Ballotpedia