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Refresh Your Memory on Redistricting Basics

by Kristin Higgins - April 19, 2021

4/26/2021 update: The U.S. Census Bureau released statewide population figures today as part of its announcement of data detailing which states gained seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and which states lost seats based on their population growth. Arkansas was one of 37 states that did not gain or lose a seat. We continue to have four U.S. House of Representatives.

2020 Census data shows Arkansas grew by 3.3% since 2010, with a residential population of 3,011,524. In 2010, the Census showed Arkansas with a population of 2,915,918 people. The Arkansas 2020 Census population is slightly less than the 2019 population estimate of 3,017,804. Redistricting information needed for cities, counties and state redistricting efforts will be released by the end of September.

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One of the more high-profile uses of U.S. Census population data involves dividing up our cities, counties and states into political districts containing roughly the same number of people.

The redistricting process is a fundamental characteristic of our democracy and ensures that every person has representation in our many forms of government.

To accommodate population growth or decline highlighted by the Census, political boundaries may shift. These revisions can change who represents you on your city council, quorum court, and at the state capitol. All levels of government may experience redistricting of some kind.

State lawmakers will be drawing new maps for our U.S. House of Representatives, and our governor, secretary of state, and attorney general as the Board of Apportionment will redraw boundaries for state representatives and senators.

Delays in releasing official population numbers have pushed back redistricting processes to this fall to September. Arkansas legislators have said they will likely have to come back into session this fall to review the data and vote on congressional maps.

Use this time to refresh your redistricting knowledge and how to be involved in your community’s efforts. Find more information about the state's process and links to drawing your own maps at uaex.uada.edu/redistricting.

History of Congressional Redistricting in Arkansas

Want to see how Arkansas' state districts have changed over time?

The Arkansas Geographic Information Office recently published a series of interactive maps that allow you to see how districts have changed over time since the 1940s. Clicking on the map will allow you to see the county and district population for each decade. 

Arkansas started in 1840 with one congressional representative. That number grew to a high of seven by 1900. 1940 was the last year Arkansas had seven districts, with roughly 278,484 people per district. After the 1950 Census, Arkansas lost a seat. The 1960 Census brought another loss as other states grew in population, leaving us with the same four seats we have today. 

In 2010, according to the website, the decade marked the first time congressional districts split counties. The counties that fall into two congressional districts include: Crawford, Jefferson, Newton, Searcy and Sebastian counties. The target population for congressional districts at that time was 728,980 people, though some fell just above and below that target.

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