Editor’s note: Roby Brock, with our content partner Talk Business, wrote this report. He can be reached at email@example.com
Arkansas Sen. Gilbert Baker, a veteran Republican from Conway who chairs the powerful Joint Budget Committee and is vice-chair of the State Agencies Committee, says that Sebastian County could move into the Fourth Congressional District along with a portion of Pulaski County.
State lawmakers will oversee the redrawing of Congressional lines, which include shrinking the Third District substantially, the Second District by a smaller margin, and growing the First and Fourth Districts due to population shifts.
Every 10 years when U.S. Census data is updated, the Arkansas General Assembly is charged with reshaping the state's Congressional districts. The legwork for redistricting will take place in the Senate and House State Agencies committees.
In an interview with Talk Business, Baker said Sebastian County could move out of the Third District and into the Fourth.
"The numbers match up there a little bit so that is a scenario that's in play. You have community leaders in Fort Smith that recognize that if they were in the Fourth District they would be kind of the big dog in the Fourth District," Baker said.
"Now is that universal in Sebastian County? Doubtful. And we really haven't floated it out there enough to where folks have been able to vigorously weigh in," Baker said.
He also suggested that Congressional redistricting could include splitting Pulaski County and moving precincts into the Fourth.
Baker said that by taking a portion of Pulaski County — perhaps eastern and southern parts — out of the Second District and moving them into the Fourth, you could add and subtract population in a helpful direction.
Baker advocates a 'one-person, one-vote' match for redrawing Congressional lines, and says that the evenness of district population is more important than preserving districts along county boundaries.
"If you're going to be 'one-person, one-vote,' you're going to have to break counties," he said. "'One-person, one-vote' is much more important than county lines."
Arkansas, Iowa and West Virginia are the only three states in the U.S. that don't have split counties in its Congressional Districts.