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Arkansas Advocates Work to Ensure Community Voice Heard During Redistricting

 Arkansas's Board of Apportionment, which draws state House and Senate lines, consists of the governor, secretary of state and attorney general.
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Arkansas's Board of Apportionment, which draws state House and Senate lines, consists of the governor, secretary of state and attorney general.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas has less than a month until it receives user-friendly census data to help draw state and congressional district maps, and advocates want to make sure community voices are heard in the process.

The Board of Apportionment, which draws the 100 House and 35 Senate district lines, held public hearings across the state in August.

Loriee Evans, lead organizer for Indivisible Little Rock and Central Arkansas, said a big concern among attendees was what procedures will be in place to prevent gerrymandering from happening during the mapmaking process.

She argued the best way for Arkansans to have a say is by sharing public comments about what their community looks like.

"Think about your community, your neighborhood association," Evans suggested. "Do you live with a particular environmental interest? There's all kinds of ways that tie your community together, or you want to keep your voting power together and be able to communicate your communities' interest to one lawmaker and not two or three."

Evans pointed out her organization has asked the Board of Apportionment for more details on how public comments will be used and applied in mapmaking.

Another group working to get residents involved in the redistricting process is the Arkansas Fair and Equitable Mapping Awareness, Planning and Action Team.

Kwami Abdul-Bey, founder of the group, said one of their initiatives includes training Arkansans to create their own maps to send with public comments.

"Because once these entities see that the community is drawing their own maps, and that the community is serious about being part of this process, they can't negate that information," Abdul-Bey asserted. "It lets these map drawers know what the citizens are looking for."

According to the preliminary census data, Arkansas's population grew by 3.3 % over the last decade. The fastest-growing areas were in the northwest portion of the state.

Copyright 2021 KASU

Emily Scott
Arkansas News Service