BENTON COUNTY -- Election officials in Benton County will be considering new boundaries for justice of the peace districts, with multiple options to be available.
The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission has been working with the county, drawing maps showing possible district lines in accordance with accepted guidelines.
Governments redraw maps every 10 years, after the census, so few holding government offices have much experience.
Jeff Hawkins, director of the Regional Planning Commission, has provided election officials a list of criteria that courts have found acceptable and that should be considered in drawing the districts. The guidelines include balancing the district's populations to ensure equal representation; prohibiting discrimination based on race, color or language; drawing districts that are relatively compact and contiguous; keeping core areas of existing districts intact; and keeping together "communities of interest," which include areas with common economic, social, political, cultural, ethnic or religious interests.
The Benton County Election Commission is still waiting for its first look at maps showing possible Quorum Court district boundaries.
Russ Anzalone, Benton County Election Commission chairman, said the Regional Planning Commission has two maps completed and is working on a third. Anzalone said the commission could have looked at the first two maps at a meeting last Wednesday but he chose to wait.
"I said let's wait until we get all three of them," Anzalone said, adding he expects all three to be ready within the next two weeks. "I want to see them all at one time, rather than look at them piecemeal."
Hawkins said the redistricting will require changes in most districts.
"All of the districts on the east side of the county have to gain population," Hawkins said. "Those lines are going to have to move to the west. That's going to require changes in other districts."
Tom Sissom provided the information for this article.
Quorum Court districts are redrawn every 10 years after the U.S. census. State and federal laws require the districts have roughly equal populations.
Benton County’s Population after the 2020 Census is 284,325, according to information from the county. The target population for each of the 15 districts is 18,955.
The population of the districts currently ranges from a high of 32,812 in District 9, represented by Susan Anglin, to a low of 14,861 in District 1, which was represented by Mike McKenzie but is now vacant.
Source: Benton County