Redistricting plan would divide county in House

Tuesday, November 16, 2021
Robert Cox / Carroll County News

Some Carroll County residents might find themselves living in a new legislative district next year thanks to new proposed maps released late last month.

The proposed new House map, based on 2020 census data, would split Carroll County between Republican Rep. Harlan Breaux and Rep. Mark Berry. Rep. Ron McNair, who currently represents a portion of Carroll County, would no longer do so.

The new maps also include a shift in district numbering, with Breaux’s district changing from 97 to 6 and Berry’s from 82 to 26.

“My district’s going to grow geographically quite a bit,” Berry said. “My district basically just shifted to the north. I picked up the pretty part of the state, anyway.”

Berry, who served as director of the Arkansas Military Department, Adjutant General, and the first Commanding General of the Arkansas National Guard before being elected to the state House in January, lives in the southern part of the new district between Altus and Ozark.

“I was right in the middle of the old map,” Berry said, adding that the new territory wouldn’t be that much different for him. “The demographics and everything are pretty much the same, really, and a lot of the conservative values.”

Under the current maps, Berry’s district incorporates Franklin County and parts of Madison and Crawford counties, while Breaux represents portions of Carroll, Madison and Washington counties.

“My district’s going to change quite a bit,” Breaux said. “I’ll get just about all of Carroll County but I’ll lose out on Madison County completely.”

The newly designated District 6 will include the northern two-thirds of Carroll County, from the state line to Green Forest, and will stretch through the northern half of neighboring Boone County. District 26 will include the southern third of Carroll County, along with the majority of Madison and Franklin counties.

“Rural Arkansas is so much different from the urban areas and a lot of our challenges and needs in the rural areas as far as education and healthcare and jobs and all that, it’s quite a bit different than what they have in in the urban areas,” Berry said. “I’m very fortunate to still have a large portion of rural Arkansas.”

The proposed new legislative district maps were the work of the Arkansas Board of Apportionment, which is made up of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Secretary of State John Thurston — all Republicans. The board is responsible for redrawing the lines for state House and Senate districts each decade based on population changes.

According to data supplied by the board, the proposed District 6 has a population of 29,666, including 93 Black residents, 386 American Indian/Alaskan Native, 357 Asian, 377 Native Hawaiian/Pacific Other and 1,728 residents identified as Other.

Proposed District 26 has a population of 29,188, including 96 Black residents, 364 American Indian/Alaskan Native, 374 Asian, 320 Native Hawaiian/Pacific Other and 1,298 residents identified as Other.

The board voted to accept the new maps at a meeting Oct. 29. After a 30-day public comment period, the board is scheduled to reconvene Nov. 29 to incorporate any feedback and make any adjustments before giving final approval.

Barring any legal barrier, the maps would then become law Dec. 30 and the new districts will apply to lawmakers elected in 2022.

Based on the 2020 census, Arkansas’ population grew to 3,011,524 since the last census, setting the ideal population for a state House district 30,115 and 86,044 for a Senate district. The proposed new maps address that growth — which took place primarily in northwest and central Arkansas — by adding seats in those regions and geographically expanding districts in the south and east.

Breaux said he was aware that a number of state residents weren’t especially pleased with the proposed new maps.

“A lot of them have been really chopped up according to other people I’ve talked to,” Breaux said, “not in northwest Arkansas, but in the central part, the Little Rock area and stuff like that. Over here, it seems to be real good.”

On the state Senate side, Carroll County would be part of District 28, which would fall under state Sen. Bob Ballinger. Ballinger did not immediately return phone calls from Carroll County News seeking comment on the proposed maps, but he did post a comment on the state apportionment board’s interactive website.

“I appreciate the hard work of the committee and their staff,” wrote Ballinger. “This task was not easy - it is good we only have to do it once every 10 years.”

Ballinger represents District 5, which includes parts of Carroll, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Sebastian and Washington counties and all of Madison County.  District 28 would include all of Carroll and Madison counties, along with portions of Boone, Newton, Franklin and Johnson.

“I will really miss representing all my good friends and incredible people in Washington, Crawford, and Sebastian Counties, but I will also enjoy the opportunity to meet some new folks in Newton and Boone Counties in the new District 28,” Ballinger wrote in a Facebook post on Oct. 29.

To view the apportionment board’s proposed redistricting plans or to comment, visit arkansasredistricting.org and click on “Maps.”

Breaux said despite what the maps say, he’s ready to lend a hand to anyone.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live,” Breaux said. “I’ve had people call and say, ‘Oh, I don’t live in your district, but I need some help.’ I’ll still help you, but I’ll let you know who’s in your district as well.”

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: