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Groups Amplify Calls for Public Input on Arkansas Redistricting

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Friday, July 23, 2021   

MONTICELLO, Ark. -- Arkansas' public redistricting hearings start next Thursday in Monticello, and groups advocating for fair voting-district maps say it's critical that voters be tuned in to the process.

Every ten years after the census, the General Assembly draws new maps for congressional districts; the governor, secretary of state and attorney general draw state legislative maps.

Kristin Foster, outreach coordinator for the Arkansas Public Policy Panel and Citizens First Congress, said public input is key because you can't see on a map what is important to a community.

"The people who are on the ground, who live there, who know about what park everybody takes their kids to, and what community festivals happen, and what neighborhoods have street fairs and things like that," Foster outlined. "They can go and talk about why it's important to keep their community together."

Main goals of redistricting for advocates of fair maps include having districts of equal population, keeping communities of interest together, and ensuring that new maps are not based on racial or partisan gerrymandering.

Foster added more than congressional and state legislative districts will be drawn. She pointed out there will be opportunities for public comments about school district and county ward boundaries as well.

To Foster, redistricting is about living up to the concept of "one person, one vote," by creating districts that make sense and have roughly equal populations.

"I think if you asked anybody on the street if they would be okay with somebody in another district getting two votes, while people in your district only got one vote, they wouldn't be okay with that," Foster asserted.

Block-by-block census data crucial for redistricting is normally available by April 1, the year following the census. But this year, it was delayed due to the pandemic, and efforts by the Trump administration, first to add a citizenship question to the census forms and then, to exclude undocumented people in determining the number of representatives each state gets.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is among a group of Republican governors asking that the Census Bureau release the data as soon as possible.


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