Arkansas lawmakers debate maps proposed by Congress ahead of session
U.S. Census data has been sent to states to allow for the redrawing of Congressional constituencies and that process began in the Arkansas Legislature on Monday. Three bills, HB1959, HB1960 and HB1961 were presented to committee and each made changes to the four congressional districts that were fired in 2010.
Arkansas lawmakers will meet on September 29 to vote on new congressional district lines. Two more committee hearings are scheduled before the resumption of the session.
HB1959, sponsored by State Representative Nelda Speaks, R-Mountain Home, proposed a map that would remove Lincoln County from the First District and add Boone and Marion counties. In the second district, Van Buren County would be deleted and added to the fourth.
In the third district, Crawford and Sebastian counties would be fully intact, while the district would lose Pope County in addition to Boone and Marion. The counties of Lincoln, Newton, Pope and Van Buren would be added to the fourth district.
Speaks said its map does not divide any county and that each district will hover near the gap or the 1% threshold of the 750,000 people per district each must join.
“This card will pass all legal challenges,” she said.
HB1960, sponsored by State Representative Jack Ladyman, R-Jonesboro, would take Marion and Newton counties from the Third to the First District as well as parts of White County. The second district would lose part of White County, while the third district would lose Marion, Newton and Pope counties. Ladyman’s bill also takes constituencies in Crawford and Sebastian counties and divides them between the third and fourth districts, while all of Pope County moves into the fourth. His measurement also takes a few ridings in Searcy County, currently in the first, and shifts them to the third.
Ladyman’s justification for his card was simple. He wanted to stick closely to the map that was already drawn without the semblance of gerrymandering of neighborhoods to favor one party or another.
âThe main goal is a minimum number of changes,â he said.
State Senator Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, asked Ladyman if his map took into account future growth trends over the next 10 years, and he said he believed the second and third districts would go probably grow at the fastest rates. Ladyman stepped back by noting that two of the state’s seven fastest growing counties, Craighead and Greene, are in northeast Arkansas and are expected to grow faster than many central counties. State.
HB1961, sponsored by State Representative David Whitaker D-Fayetteville, proposed a map that would remove Desha and Chicot counties from the first and add Madison County to the third among several changes. The centerpiece of his bill was to bring Madison County back to the third district because of the county’s historical and cultural ties to other counties in the district.
One problem this map would create is that it would give the third district 762,000 people, which is well above 750,000. Whitaker told committee members not to focus too much on the deviation standard of 1. %. Federal courts have not established a percentage deviation standard.
âI’m certainly happy to be working (with Ladyman and Speaks) to close the gap,â he added.
Several members of the public were not satisfied with some of the proposed changes and other changes that had not been proposed.
Robert Walker, a resident of Pulaski County, asked why Jefferson and Pulaski counties were not in the same district. He said the maps proposed by Congress put any candidate in Pulaski County at a competitive disadvantage.
Sarah Dunklin, a farmer in the first district, said Desha and Chicot counties should remain in the first district. She added that other counties with strong ties to row crops, such as Lincoln, should remain in the district due to the strong ties and economic interests between the counties.
Rebekah DeWitt, who owns homes and properties in at least five counties, agreed with Dunklin. She said farmers in the area must have a representative in Congress who is intimately aware of the problems in the Arkansas Delta, and that those interests do not need to be divided among multiple districts.