Arkansas Apportionment Board Sets End Of Year Deadline For New Legislative Districts
Though the board responsible for redrawing Arkansas’ state congressional districts met for the first time Monday, delays in receiving Census data until possibly the end of September has already caused the board to be behind the recommended schedule.
The three-member Board of Apportionment, consisting of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Secretary of State John Thurston, set a deadline of Dec. 31 to complete redrawing the state’s legislative districts.
Delays in collecting data from the U.S. Census Bureau due to the coronavirus pandemic has in turn caused delays in getting data back to the states.
Speaking to the committee, Thurston spoke on the importance of working as quickly as possible once the state receives the necessary data.
"It is going to be crunch time once we receive those numbers and have the districts complete because the burden is really going to fall on the counties when they have to upgrade their voter registration and also draw their districts, the county – the [Justice of the Peace] districts – so I believe receiving this data this late, the counties are the ones who are really going to feel the impact of this," Thurston said.
The Arkansas Legislature, which is responsible for drawing the state’s U.S. congressional lines, did not formally adjourn in April and instead began an extended recess so they could meet again in September to address redistricting.
Also during the meeting, Hutchinson suggested former Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Betty Dickey serve as the state’s Redistricting Coordinator.
"I think she has both the credentials, but the gravitas and the wisdom and judicial temperament that I think would be important for a coordinator that’s receiving public input and being able to deal with the public at the same time," Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said some of the responsibilities of the coordinator include engaging in public meetings and gathering public comments concerning redistricting, as well as presenting the final maps that the committee establishes.
Speaking on the role of the Redistricting Coordinator, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said for whoever got the position, it was important that they be "technologically savvy."
"I think it’s very important as we’re dealing with millions of Arkansans and lines that are going to have be drawn, needing a coordinator to get up to speed, even someone with the gravitas and resume as former Chief Justice Dickey," Rutledge said.
Though the committee did not vote to fill the position during the meeting, Hutchinson said he would reach out to Dickey about the salary parameters of the position and the board will schedule a future meeting to speak with her in "executive session."
You can watch the full meeting here through Arkansas PBS.