From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
The political map of the Arkansas legislature is getting a makeover.
The boundaries of all 35 state Senate districts and all 100 districts in the House of Representatives are about to be re-drawn to reflect shifts in population.
It happens every 10 years, based on the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The purpose of redistricting is to preserve the concept of “one man one vote.”
An elected official who represents 50,000 people is going to be more responsive and effective than one who represents 100,000 people.
Don’t confuse this with the redistricting of Congressional districts, a process the legislature just finished. The state legislature drew new boundaries for four Congressional districts, and the four Congressmen who represent those districts did not have a vote in the process.
By the same token, legislators are not in charge of redrawing their own district boundaries. That is being done by the state Board of Apportionment, which consists of the governor, the attorney general and the secretary of state.
The Board will draw new legislative districts in which every House member represents about 30,000 people and every state Senator represents about 86,000 people.
The Board of Apportionment must equalize great disparities in the size of state Senate districts. District 22, which includes Mississippi and Poinsett Counties, has only 73,000 people. District 1, which has Bentonville and parts other cities in northwest Arkansas, has a population of 130,000.
In other words, my colleague Senator Bart Hester of northwest Arkansas represents 57,000 more constituents than Senator Dave Wallace of Leachville.
The Board will try to keep communities together. Where possible it won’t place incumbents in the same district, so they don’t have to run against each other. That preserves continuity of representation.
Opinion polls indicate that even though people have low regard for politics and politicians in general, they tend to like their own elected officials. It’s paradoxical, but it’s a reflection of human nature.
The new legislative districts must be compact and contiguous. No district can be split into two separate islands. You can usually tell if a district has been gerrymandered because it has fingers sticking out at odd angles, or it has a strange shape like a piece from a jigsaw puzzle.
District 24, which I represent, has lost population over the past 10 years and now has 77,000 people. That means its boundaries will expand to include an additional 9,000 people.
That is not a simple process, mainly because the Senate districts surrounding District 24 have also lost population and they will also have to expand.
Every county along the Mississippi River has lost population. In fact, the only counties in eastern Arkansas that gained population over the past 10 years are Craighead and Greene Counties.
As soon as the new maps are official, I will reach out to every new community in my district.
The laws we pass in Little Rock effect your schools, your business, your access to health care and the safety of your streets.
Whether you are someone I’ve known for years, or someone I just met, I promise I’ll do my best to effectively represent everyone in my Senate district.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.