Oct 8, 2021 - Politics

Arkansas lawmakers split capitol county

The map approved by the Arkansas Legislature this week.

The map approved by the Arkansas Legislature this week. Screen shot: Arkansas Legislature

Arkansas lawmakers have redrawn the state's congressional districts. Critics say will result in less voting power for Black people living in Little Rock.

  • The new map splits Pulaski County, the state's largest by population, into three districts. It’s been in the 2nd congressional district since the 1960s.

What's happening: Two bills that define the map, HB 1982 and SB 743, will go to Gov. Asa Hutchinson to sign. If he does, the new boundaries will stand until the redistricting process takes place again following results of the 2030 Census.

Why it matters: The boundaries divide voters into blocs based on population, and each district elects state representatives to the U.S. House.

  • Congressional districts also determine federal funding for things like infrastructure, public health and education.

Details: Five counties have been divided into different districts since the current boundaries were set in 2011. In the new map, Sebastian County is the only other county that will be divided.

By the numbers: Current population estimates show 15.7% of Arkansans identified as Black or African American.

  • In Pulaski County, the number jumps to 37.9%.

What they're saying: "We're not supposed to pack these districts and not supposed to crack these districts when it comes to minority groups. This map does absolutely what it is not supposed to do," Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) said, speaking in session.

  • She noted 11 of the 36 redistricting bills filed in recent weeks did not split any counties.
  • Sen. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) also said in session the map was "slicing and dicing the Black and brown population[s] in Pulaski County into three different congressional districts." It's not necessary to keep the 2nd congressional district majority-Republican, he noted.

The other side: In the same session, Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) said Pulaski County would benefit from having three congressmen instead of just one. "It's all about the way you look at things. ... This map is better.

"What to watch: If signed into law, the map may face litigation.

  • Tucker said he didn't know if it would be challenged in court or not. If so he said, "The fact we're splitting Pulaski County three ways is going to be exhibit one."

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