September 23, 2021
As Arkansas lawmakers develop ideas for redrawing congressional district boundaries, splitting the state’s most populous county emerged in multiple proposals filed this week.
The Arkansas Legislature is set to be called into extended regular session, starting Wednesday, to consider legislation to reconfigure the state’s four congressional districts based on data from the 2020 U.S. census.
Senate Bill 721 by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, would split Pulaski County among three congressional districts, creating four districts roughly based on the state’s geography. It’s among a handful of proposals that will be considered.
Pulaski County contains Little Rock and has been entirely in the 2nd Congressional District since the 1960s, according to historical data from the Arkansas Geographic Information Systems office.
Two other proposals from Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, would divide Pulaski County among three congressional districts. Those bills are Senate Bill 722 and Senate Bill 723.
Hester said he drafted SB721 to “have as geographically sound a map as possible,” arguing that the map is “the most cohesive map that’s been produced to this point.”
“Pulaski County happens to be in the center of the state, and if you’re trying to draw a cohesive map that’s just natural that would happen,” he said.
The General Assembly controls the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional boundaries. State legislative districts are redrawn after the census every 10 years by the Board of Apportionment, made up of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state.
Five counties are split under the state’s current congressional district lines: Crawford, Newton, Sebastian, Searcy and Jefferson.
Democrats, including Sens. Joyce Elliot and Clarke Tucker, both of Little Rock, said Wednesday that they wouldn’t support a map-splitting Pulaski County. Both unsuccessfully sought Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District seat in previous elections.
U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., who has held the seat since 2015, declined to comment on the proposals through a campaign spokesman.