August 3, 2011 Edition

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New state legislative dists. set

Gretchen Hunt

Gov. Mike Beebe's legislative district maps were adopted by the state Board of Apportionment on Friday.

The map creates new districts for both the state Senate and House of Representatives. In both cases, Lawrence County remains intact and will have one elected representative for the entire county.

State Rep. James Ratliff of Imboden said keeping the entire county in one district is definitely a good thing.

"It means we're pulling together as one," he said. "It means we're strong and probably in good graces with the governor. I attribute that to all our elected officials working hard and trying to work together."

Ratliff said another factor is that Lawrence County's population has remained pretty steady over the past 10 years. The goal of redistricting is to make the districts as equal as possible. For the House, the goal was approximately 29,000 people, while the average population for Senate districts is supposed to be around 83,000.

"Everything is moving west," Ratliff said. "The east is losing population pretty fast. It is good news for Lawrence County that we have held on to our population and stayed whole."

For the House of Representatives, Lawrence County will be in District 60, along with parts of Sharp, Randolph and Greene counties.

Ratliff said he is excited about the newly-created District 60, which is similar to a district from the past.

"Sharp County and Randolph County have a lot in common with Lawrence County," Ratliff said. "There is a lot of emphasis on agriculture and a lot of hard-working families."

For the Senate, Lawrence County will be in District 20, along with all of Greene and Clay counties and a small portion of Randolph and Craighead counties.

"You might be able to attribute it (Lawrence County remaining whole in the new district maps) to (State Sen.) Robert Thompson and myself working hard to prove to the people down there that we're pretty serious about what's going on and trying to move the county forward," Ratliff said.

The district's boundaries were filed with the secretary of state after Friday's meeting and will go into effect in 30 days.

Gov. Beebe, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Secretary of State Mark Martin make up the board. The vote was 2-1 on both maps, with Beebe and McDaniel voting in favor and Martin voting against.

The new map, as long as it survives any potential court challenges, will be in effect for 10 years.

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