FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Arkansas lawmakers are gearing up for a special session this week at the state capitol, with redistricting on the agenda.
State Senator Bart Hester (R- District 1) proposed a map that is already facing some controversy surrounding gerrymandering.
His idea would split the current four districts into the corners of the state and divide Pulaski County into three districts.
“Pulaski County happens to be very populous happens and in the very center of the state,” he said. “No matter where we split any districts in Arkansas, we’re going to have four republicans in Congress, so there’s no way to gerrymander that any more Republican than we already are.”
As of Monday, September 27, State Senator Greg Leding (D- District 4) proposed his own map through Senate Bill 274.
“It would split 11 counties,” he said. “Generally, that’s something we try to avoid but the student who drew this map was using a different criteria.”
Leding said the map was drawn by a Fayetteville student he taught in an online course called ‘Draw the Line.’ The program taught junior high and high school students about redistricting and allowed them to create their own maps.
“I think one of the best things about Senate Bill 274 was it was drawn free from any influence from lawmakers, and I personally think that redistricting should be an independent process,” he said.
Leding chose to present a map before lawmakers that was drawn by Fayetteville student Jaycee Petrone.
“My goals were to get equal representation for everyone- especially previously underrepresented and historically underrepresented groups,” Petrone said.
Leding is presenting the map in SB274 but said he would have done a few things differently had he drawn it up himself.
“If I were drawing Senate Bill 274, it’s not quite the map I would’ve drawn,” he said. “I would’ve tried to leave more counties intact. I do think the student was operating in the spirit of trying to keep alike communities aligned and that’s certainly important.”
Both Senators- Leding and Hester- said no matter what is decided in the special session, it is important Arkansans recognize any changes made can impact everyone across the state.
“Redistricting is incredibly important,” Leding said. “It only happens once every 10 years it’s important that we get it right.”
Now is the time to contact your state representatives and senators about what you would like to see with redistricting.
You can also submit feedback through independent organizations like the Arkansas Policy Panel.