Redistricting in Arkansas
Arkansas lawmakers represent residents and businesses at the state and national level. Who they represent depends on where the lawmaker lives and the boundary lines drawn every 10 years to divide Arkansas into legislative districts.
States review legislative districts after the end of every U.S. Census to see if changes to boundary lines are needed. This once-a-decade review process starting in 2021 is called “redistricting.” Boundaries often move to reflect how an area’s population has changed. The more people in an area, the smaller the district may be. The fewer people, the larger the district may be.
A similar process takes place for quorum courts, city councils/boards, school districts and community college boards in Arkansas, but the information below focuses on the state and federal redistricting process.
Who is responsible for redistricting in Arkansas?
Constitutional amendments approved by voters in 1936 and 1945 guide the redistricting process in Arkansas, including who is responsible for redistricting for state and federal lawmakers.
State Districts - Arkansas’ governor, secretary of state and attorney general are responsible for drawing boundaries for the 100 House of Representative districts and 35 Senate districts in the state. The three officials meet as the “Board of Apportionment” the year after each federal census to determine districts.
The total number of state legislators always remains the same, but the communities and residents in districts that legislators represent may change depending on the maps created and adopted by the Board of Apportionment.
Congressional Districts - State senators and representatives are responsible for drawing the boundaries for U.S. House of Representatives districts in Arkansas. (No one draws boundaries for U.S. Senate districts because Arkansas’ two senators represent the entire state.)
The United States has 435 representatives. This number doesn’t change, but the number of representatives per state can depending on nationwide population changes. The process for determining the number of congressional representatives is called “apportionment.”
Arkansas has four U.S. House of Representatives seats and is expected to keep that number after the 2020 Census, though how districts within the state are drawn will change during the redistricting process.
When does redistricting take place in Arkansas?
Arkansas’ Constitution requires new maps to be adopted the year after the census. Because of the pandemic in 2020 and other delays, the release of census information has been delayed until this fall. The U.S. Census Bureau announced in February that data will be released by Sept. 30, 2021. City, county and state officials will have less time than previous decades to complete the task.
State Maps – A schedule for the 2021 Board of Apportionment has not been released and a 2010 website for the board was recently deleted.
In 2011, during the last redistricting process, the board of apportionment held its organizational meeting in March to start work on state-level districts. Their last meeting took place in July, with approval of the final Arkansas maps. The maps took effect 30 days after their filing with the Secretary of State.
Transcripts of these past meetings can be accessed through an internet archive of arkansasredistricting.org/documents at https://web.archive.org/web/20210113143039/https://arkansasredistricting.org/documents/.
Federal maps – The Arkansas General Assembly convenes Jan. 11, 2021. Typically, state legislators wrap up their business by March though the official end of the session may take place in April or May. The Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs in the House and Senate have oversight of the redistricting process.
In 2011, during the last redistricting process, the state House and Senate approved similar maps by the second week of April.
History of Congressional Redistricting in Arkansas
Want to see how Arkansas' state districts have changed over time? The Arkansas Geographic Information Office recently published a series of interactive maps that allow you to see how districts have changed over time since the 1940s. Clicking no the map will allow you to see the county and district population for each decade.
Arkansas started in 1840 with one congressional representative. That number grew to a high of seven by 1900. 1940 was the last year Arkansas had seven districts, with roughly 278,484 people per district. After the 1950 Census, Arkansas lost a seat. The 1960 Census brought another loss as other states grew in population, leaving us with the same four seats we have today.
In 2010, according to the website, the decade marked the first time congressional districts split counties. The counties that fall into two congressional districts include: Crawford, Jefferson, Newton, Searcy and Sebastian counties. The target population for congressional districts at that time was 728,980 people, though some fell just above and below that target.
Follow the committee online.
Follow the committee online.
- National Conference of State Legislature Redistricting Website
NCSL helps prepare legislatures and others for the redistricting cycle with comprehensive information on redistricting law, technology and process.
- iCivics Game
iCivics offers an online game for students to learn about redistricting and gerrymandering.