Frequently Asked Questions
Between July and August of this year, the Board of Apportionment traveled the State of Arkansas to hold public meetings to hear from Arkansans regarding the representation they believe is reflective of their neighborhoods, municipalities, counties, and communities. The Board held meetings in Monticello, Mountain Home, Bentonville, Hope, Helena, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, and Little Rock.
As of August 24, 2021, the Board has completed its statewide public hearing tour. At each meeting, the Board explained the criteria by which it will draw districts, provided a summary of population data trends in Arkansas counties and legislative districts, and opened the floor for public comment.
As a result of our public meetings, the Board heard a number of similar questions that could be addressed with a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Page.
1. What criteria will the Board of Apportionment follow when drawing districts in the Arkansas House of Representatives and the Arkansas Senate?
- The Board seeks to redistrict state legislative districts under the following criteria. Please be aware that these criteria often conflict with one another, so it may not be possible to comply with all criteria in a particular district. The first three criteria are generally ranked in order of legal importance. State and Federal law also recognizesthe importance of compactness, and contiguity, with added considerations for maintaining cores of existing districts, communities of interest, continuity of representation, and minimization of partisanship.
- Population: The Board balances state legislative districts every ten years after a federal census, in this case the 2020 Census, so that they are substantially equal.
- Equal Protection: The Board will comply with current federal constitutional requirements, which include the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
- Voting Rights Act: The Board will comply with current federal statutory requirements, which include Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended.
- Compactness: The Board seeks to draw compact districts that avoid eccentrically shaped boundaries between districts. This is often measured by an eyeball test of each district’s shape (ie. Is the district square, round, rectangular, etc.). County and municipal boundaries are often irregularly shaped, as are rivers and roads, so these factors must also be taken into account.
- Contiguity: The Board seeks to draw districts that share common borders and that do not contain islands removed from the rest of the district.
- Core of Existing Districts: When possible, the Board seeks to keep political subdivisions whole (counties, cities, and precincts).
- Communities of Interest: When possible, the Board seeks to group likeminded communities together, where they share economic, social, political, cultural, ethnic, or religious interests.
- Continuity of Representation: When possible, the Board seeks to draw districts in a way that avoids one incumbent running against another.
- Minimization of Partisanship: The Board’s intent is to draw districts in a way that avoids targeting or giving preferential treatment to any person or group because of their political affiliations.
2. What is the timeline for redistricting the Arkansas House of Representatives and the Arkansas Senate?
- On May 24, 2021, the Arkansas Board of Apportionment submitted correspondence to the Clerk of Court of the Arkansas Supreme Court notifying the Court that it intends to complete the redistricting of the Arkansas General Assembly by December 31, 2021.
- This timeline ensures the Arkansas Secretary of State, County Clerks, County Boards of Election Commissioners, and other elections officials have time to prepare for candidate filing period on the last week of February to March 1, 2022, as well as May primary elections.
3. Who will be doing the work of redistricting the Arkansas House of Representatives and the Arkansas Senate and how will they be drawing districts?
- Staff members from each of the three offices composing the Board of Apportionment (Office of the Governor, Office of the Attorney General, and Office of the Secretary of State) will be analyzing data and drawing maps with help from subject matter experts, the Arkansas Geographic Systems Office (GIS), and the staff of the Board of Apportionment. Final maps will be presented to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, and Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston by their respective staff members. Final maps will be voted on in a public meeting in accordance with the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
- The State of Arkansas procured mapping software (AutoBound) from vendor Citygate GIS. Citygate GIS was chosen from competing vendors in accordance with Arkansas procurement law. Citygate GIS is an industry leader in the area of redistricting and served as the state vendor in the 2011 Arkansas redistricting cycle. The Arkansas Geographic Systems Office (GIS) has used Citygate software products over the past ten years. Citygate GIS also currently serves as the vendor for many sister states and local subdivisions in their redistricting efforts.
4. Does the Board of Apportionment play a part in congressional redistricting, judicial redistricting, and local redistricting (county and municipal districts)?
No. The Board of Apportionment only draws the districts to the Arkansas House of Representatives and Arkansas Senate, otherwise known as the Arkansas General Assembly.
5. Who draws the congressional districts to the United States House of Representatives?
The Arkansas General Assembly draws the congressional district lines. These districts are usually drawn by the State Agencies Committees in the Arkansas House and Arkansas Senate and then sent to the floor of each chamber in a legislative format.
6. Who draws judicial districts to Arkansas Circuit Courts and the Arkansas Court of Appeals?
The Judicial Council draws state circuit courts. The Court of Appeals Apportionment Commission aids the Arkansas General Assembly in drawing the districts for the Arkansas Court of Appeals.
7. Who draws county justice of the peace districts for county quorum courts?
The county board of election commissioners in each county is responsible for the apportionment of the county into quorum court districts.
8. Who draws municipal wards for city councils?
City councils are responsible for redistricting the wards represented in their respective city councils.
9. When a district is described as “illegal”, what does that mean?
Districts described by the GIS Office on its public population maps as “illegal” are districts for which the population of the district far exceeds or falls significantly below the target population for a district to either the Arkansas House of Representatives or the Arkansas Senate. Federal and State Courts have held population deviations from the target population in excess of ten percent (10%) are considered suspect by the courts and likely unconstitutional. “Illegal” districts exceed the 10% threshold, which is plus or minus five percent (+5%/-5%) above or below the target population. The standard for population remains “substantial equality” not +/- any percentage.
10. How is population determined and what is the standard for population in redistricting the Arkansas General Assembly??
- Population data comes directly from the U.S. Census Bureau. Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a decennial census to tabulate the population of the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau then provides that data to the states to conduct their respective redistricting operations. The Board of Apportionment, like many of its out of state counterparts, must utilize Census data to determine state legislative districts.
- Certain Arkansans living in what are known as “group quarters” were counted where they resided on April 1, 2020. Individuals who resided in residential group quarters, such as college dorms, state prisons, county jails, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities were counted by the Census Bureau as a resident of that facility.
- The standard for population of state legislative districts is “substantial equality”. Developments in case law have set the differing standards for congressional districts and state legislative districts. The case of Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964) serves as the seminal case for a determination of population that comports with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
11. How will the Board ensure that districts described as “majority minority districts” will continue to be represented?
The Board, with the help of subject matter experts, the Arkansas Geographic Systems Office (GIS), and the staff of the Board of Apportionment, will analyze and revise districts with the data provided by the 2020 Census to conform to requirements set by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, when politically cohesive groups are identified as sufficiently compact and where a “majority minority district” is necessary to address a history of racially polarized voting in Arkansas legislative elections.
12. How will the Board avoid partisan gerrymanders?
The criterion of compactness directly addresses the issue of gerrymandering. The term gerrymandering was coined when, then Governor of Massachusetts, helped create a partisan district in the shape of a salamander in the City of Boston in 1812. Consequently, gerrymandering speaks directly to the shape of a district. The Board will draw districts with the intent to make districts more compact when possible so that districts will appear more square, rectangular, or round and avoid eccentrically shaped boundaries. Political data is not included in the 2020 Census and has not been loaded into the map drawing software.
13. How will public comments be used by the Board of Apportionment as it draws state legislative districts?
- Staff will examine public comments that were submitted to the Board at a public hearing or at arkansasredistricting.org/ and the Board will consider them prior to finalizing districts to the Arkansas General Assembly. In addition, once final maps have been selected for the Arkansas House of Representatives and the Arkansas Senate, members of the public will have thirty days to examine the final maps and make a second round of public comments before the Board of Apportionment takes a final vote to approve the final maps.
- Arkansans who were unable to attend a public hearing are encouraged to submit public comment at the Board’s website: arkansasredistricting.org/. The site will be available to the public through the entire process of redistricting the Arkansas General Assembly. The Office of the Board of Apportionment has included links to the PBS videotaped meetings.