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Prof. Justin Levitt's Doug Spencer's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

State Summary

In Arkansas, congressional lines are drawn by the legislature, as normal legislation.  State legislative lines are drawn by a three-member politician commission, consisting of the Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General.

In the 2010 cycle, the legislature passed a congressional plan (HB 1836) signed by the Governor on Apr. 13, 2011.  The politician commission approved state legislative plans on July 29, 2011.  Court challenges to the state Senate map were rejected.

Reform proponents attempted to qualify a 2020 initiative for the ballot, but the state refused to accept petitions from canvassers for whom background checks were “acquired” but allegedly without proof that they were “passed.”  [Miller v. Thurston III, No. 5:20-cv-05163 (W.D. Ark. Sept. 15, 2020); Miller v. Thurston II, 2020 Ark. 267 (2020)]

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Seats: (projected)

Institution:

Drawn by:

Plan Status:

Party Control:
  Upper House:
  Lower House:
  Governor:

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The Latest Updates

Nov 29, 2021
Arkansas' Board of Apportionment unanimously approved new state house and senate maps.
Nov 28, 2021
The Arkansas Board of Apportionment is expected to finalize new legislative districts on Monday Nov. 29th.
Nov 4, 2021
The Arkansas Attorney General published an opinion (2021-092) that congressional and state legislative maps, approved without the signature of Gov. Hutchinson, will become effective on Jan. 14, 2022 after a 90-day window during which citizens have the opportunity to file a referendum petition.
Oct 30, 2021
The Arkansas Board of Apportionment released map proposals for new state senate and house districts for a 30-day public comment period. The board will reconvene on Nov. 29th.
Oct 15, 2021
The group Arkansans for a Unified Natural State has announced a campaign to initiate a referendum on the state's new congressional map. According to the state constitution (art. V § 1) a referendum will be put before voters if six percent of legal voters sign a petition within 90 days of the current state legislature's adjournment. A special election may be called to consider the referendum if fifteen percent of legal voters sign the petition.
Oct 13, 2021
The Governor of Arkansas will allow the new congressional map, passed by the state legislature, to become law without his signature. According to the state constitution (art. VI § 15) the new maps will become official twenty days after the legislature adjourns. CORRECTION: Due to ambiguities under state law, the effective date of Arkansas' new maps will be determined by the state Attorney General via a published opinion.
Oct 7, 2021
The Arkansas state legislature has approved a new congressional districting plan. The senate approved SB 743 and the house passed the identical measure HB 1982. The plan now goes to the governor for final approval.
Oct 5, 2021
The Arkansas Senate Committee on State Agencies & Government Affairs moved congressional redistricting bill SB743 forward and the House Committee on State Agencies & Government Affairs moved the identical house bill HB1982 forward. The bills will be taken up by their respective chambers.
Sep 29, 2021
The Arkansas state legislature reconvened to draw new congressional maps. The legislature will consider a number of proposals before finalizing a plan.
Sep 27, 2021
Arkansas lawmakers have introduced ten more congressional redistricting proposals (HB 1963, HB 1964, HB 1965, HB 1966, SB 724, SB 725, SB 726, SB 727, SB 728, SB 729). The proposals were discussed by the Arkansas Senate and House State Agencies & Governmental Affairs Committee during their Sept. 27, 2021 joint meeting.
Sep 23, 2021
Arkansas lawmakers have proposed seven congressional redistricting bills (HB 1959, HB 1960, HB 1961, HB 1962, SB 721, SB 722 and SB 723). The Arkansas Senate and House State Agencies & Governmental Affairs Committees have met jointly to review the proposals.
Sep 8, 2021
Arkansas legislature expected to reconvene on Sept. 29, 2021 to redraw the state's four congressional districts.
Jul 12, 2021
The Arkansas Board of Apportionment announced the public meeting schedule for state legislative redistricting. There will be 8 meetings between July 29th through August 24th.
Jun 8, 2021
The Arkansas Board of Apportionment hired former Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Betty Dickey to be the redistricting coordinator
May 24, 2021
Arkansas Apportionment Board sets deadline for finalizing new state legislative districts. New districts will be drawn by Dec. 31, 2021.
Jan 20, 2021
The Attorney General of Arkansas named the team that will assist her during the redistricting process.
Sep 15, 2020
A federal court dismissed a challenge by proponents of a redistricting initiative to the State’s refusal to accept petitions from canvassers.

Institution

Arkansas’ congressional lines are drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto.

Arkansas’ state legislative lines are drawn by a three-member politician commission, in place since 1936, consisting of the Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General. [Ark. Const. art. 8, § 1]

Original jurisdiction to challenge state legislative lines in state court is vested with the Arkansas Supreme Court. [Ark. Const. art. 8, § 5]

Timing

Arkansas state law does not impose a particular deadline for drawing congressional lines, though candidates must file for congressional primary elections by Mar. 1, 2022. [Ark. Code § 7-7-203(c)(2)].  The session began on Jan. 11, 2021, and is currently scheduled to end on Mar. 12, 2021.

Arkansas law purports to establish Feb. 1, 2021, as the deadline for state legislative lines, but census data is likely to arrive thereafter.  [Ark. Const. art. 8, § 4]  Candidates must file for state legislative primary elections by Mar. 1, 2022. [Ark. Code § 7-7-203(c)(2)]

Arkansas law ties the drawing of state legislative lines to the Census, and might therefore be construed to prohibit redrawing lines mid-decade; there is no similar provision pertaining to congressional lines. [Ark. Const. art. 8, § 4]

Public input

At least for the state legislative maps, the politician commission posted public comments and hearing transcripts in the last cycle, here.  Neither the legislature nor the commission has announced any specific plans for public input this cycle just yet.

Criteria

Like all states, Arkansas must comply with constitutional equal population requirements, and further requires that its state legislative districts be equally populated “as nearly as practicable.” [Ark. Const. art. 8, §§ 2, 3]

Arkansas must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.

For state legislative lines, the state constitution requires that Senate districts be contiguous, and that they follow county lines except where necessary to comply with other legal requirements. [Ark. Const. art. 8, § 3Wells v. White, 274 Ark. 197 (1981)] These districts may be multimember districts. [Harvey v. Clinton, 308 Ark. 546 (1992)]

2010 cycle

The legislature passed a congressional plan (HB 1836) signed by the Governor on Apr. 13. 2011.

Arkansas’ commission approved state legislative plans on July 29, 2011.

The congressional map and the state Senate map were both challenged in federal court, but the challenges were rejected.  [Larry v. Arkansas, No. 4:18-cv-00116, 2018 WL 4858956 (E.D. Ark. Aug. 3, 2018); Jeffers v. Beebe, 895 F. Supp. 2d 920 (E.D. Ark. 2012)]

2000 cycle

The legislature passed a congressional plan (SB 552), which became law on Apr. 20, 2001, without the Governor’s signature.

Arkansas’ commission approved state legislative plans on Sept. 19, 2001.

It appears that neither plan was challenged in court.

Redistricting Cases in Arkansas

Search all Arkansas Cases >

Arkansas | Federal Trial | Process
Miller v. Thurston III
Federal court rejected challenge to rejection of signatures based on background check certification
Last Updated Sep 15, 2020
Case Number

No. 5:20-cv-05163 (W.D. Ark.)

Cycle 2020
Arkansas | State Supreme | Process
Miller v. Thurston II
State court rejected challenge to invalidation of petition signatures for ballot initiative
Last Updated Aug 27, 2020
Case Number

No. CV-20-454 (Ark. S. Ct.)

Cycle 2020
Arkansas | Federal Trial | Federal Appellate | Process
Miller v. Thurston I
Federal court rejected challenge to requirements for ballot initiatives in light of COVID-19
Last Updated Jul 23, 2020
Case Number

No. 5:20-cv-05070 (W.D. Ark.), No. 20-2095 (8th Cir.)

Cycle 2020