From the quiet hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
The U.S. Census Bureau has finally released the latest figures on population growth.
It’s a day many people in government and politics have been waiting for, because now the legislature can start drawing new maps of Congressional Districts.
Arkansas now has four Congressional Districts, and will continue to have four districts. That’s good news, because seven states like New York and California lost Congressional seats due to population declines.
Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and West Virginia also will lose a Congressional seat, which means they will lose some political clout in Washington.
Texas will add two Congressional seats because of a gain in population over the past 10 years.
Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Oregon and Montana will add a seat.
Overall, the population of Arkansas grew by 3.3 percent over the past 10 years, compared to 7.4 percent growth nationwide.
I don’t anticipate any changes for east Arkansas. We’ll continue to be in the First District, represented in Washington by Congressman Rick Crawford.
The state legislature in Little Rock will draw the new Congressional maps. The guiding principle is that the people we send to Washington should not draw their own maps. Instead, it should be done by a separate entity.
By that same guiding principle, the state legislature will not draw its new district boundaries.
The state legislature in Little Rock consists of 100 House districts and 35 Senate districts. Their new boundaries will be drawn by the state Board of Apportionment, which consists of the governor, the secretary of state and the attorney general.
The boundaries of some legislative districts will undergo dramatic changes in areas where the population has gone up or down a lot since 2010.
District 24, which I represent, now consists of all Crittenden County and parts of Cross County, Lee County, Phillips County and St. Francis County.
According to the latest data from the Census Bureau, all those counties have lost population.
That means that my Senate District will expand geographically. District 24 will take in larger portions of Cross, Lee, Phillips and St. Francis Counties after all the new boundary lines are drawn.
Ten years ago, each state Senate district had about 83,300 residents. Today, some have more than 100,000 people and some districts have fewer than 80,000 people.
When the redistricting process is complete, later this fall, every state Senate district will again have roughly the same number of people.
The legal basis for redistricting is that every citizen should have equal representation in the legislature.
If your state senator represented 100,000 constituents, you would not be as well represented as someone who lives in a Senate district with only 70,000 people.
That’s the theory, at least.
The important thing is that we redistrict every 10 years, to keep up with population shifts. Otherwise, the original 13 colonies would still be making all the important policy decisions.
People don’t stay in one place forever. They move around, and when they do they take their voting power and their constitutional rights with them.
From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.