History of the Board of Apportionment
In 1936, Amendment 23 to the Arkansas Constitution created the Board of Apportionment. Article 8 of the Arkansas Constitution states the Board, chaired by the Governor and consisting of the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, is tasked with reapportioning the state’s representatives following each federal decennial census. Previously, the Arkansas Legislature apportioned itself.
In 1964, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Reynolds v. Sims that the electoral districts of state legislative chambers must be roughly equal in population, resulting in the “one person, one vote” rule. As a result, Article 8 was amended to grant the Board of Apportionment authority to redistrict the state’s legislative boundaries based on population.
Changes Over Time
The Board of Apportionment is responsible for redrawing the state’s legislative districts (100 House districts and 35 Senate districts) so each district includes roughly the same number of residents, while the General Assembly and the House and Senate Committees on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs are charged with redrawing the state’s federal congressional districts. Below is a brief overview of how these districts have changed over the last two decades.
In 2001, the state’s ideal congressional district population was 722,363. Following the 2001 redistricting process, the state’s congressional districts were distributed as follows: the First Congressional District consisted of 26 counties; the Second Congressional District consisted of 8 counties; the Third Congressional District consisted of 12 counties; and the Fourth Congressional District consisted of 29 counties.
At that time, Arkansas was one of only three states that did not split counties inside of congressional districts. However, this changed during the 2011 redistricting process.
In 2011, the state’s ideal congressional district population was 731,557, an increase of 9,194 from the previous decade. Following the 2011 redistricting process, the state’s congressional districts were distributed as follows: the First Congressional District consisted of 30 counties; the Second Congressional District consisted of 7 counties; the Third Congressional District consisted of 10 counties; and the Fourth Congressional District consisted of 33 counties. Five counties were split during the 2011 redistricting process: Crawford, Jefferson, Newton, Searcy, and Sebastian Counties.
Official 2020 Census data is expected to be released September 30, 2021. Preliminary data shows that the number of residents in two-thirds of the state’s counties have decreased, and that the state’s population has shifted from more rural areas toward urban areas and Northwest Arkansas.
The 2001 Board of Apportionment, which consisted of Governor Mike Huckabee, Secretary of State Sharon Priest, and Attorney General Mark Pryor, led the redistricting process for the state’s House and Senate districts. In 2001, the ideal House district population was 26,734 and the ideal Senate district population was 76,383.
In 2011, the redistricting process for legislative districts was led by Governor Mike Beebe, Secretary of State Mark Martin, and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. In 2011, the ideal House district population was 29,262 and the ideal Senate district population was 83,607, representing a 2,528 increase over the 2001 House district and a 7,224 increase over the 2001 Senate district.
Governor Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, and Secretary of State John Thurston are leading the 2021 redistricting process. Former Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Betty Dickey, who is coordinating the Board of Apportionment, expects the process of redrawing the state’s House and Senate districts to be completed by mid-November.
Over twenty (20) redistricting bills have been filed by lawmakers as we head into session today. Discussions during joint meetings of the House and Senate Committees on State Agencies have focused on the importance of keeping farming communities together and concerns over splitting counties between congressional districts.