SPRINGDALE, Ark. — The Census Bureau reported an undercount in Arkansas that officials say could impact districting and federal funding.
The 2020 Census counted 3,011,524 Arkansans. It was then a record for Arkansas, topping 3 million residents for the first time.
On Thursday, the Census Bureau estimated an undercount of the Arkansas population by 5.04%. That translates to about 1 in 20 Arkansans.
State Senator Jason Rapert, a Republican who represents District 35, says this could mean issues in proper districting.
“There were areas for instance Fort Smith and Sebastian County where it was very difficult to get things to fit for the congressional districts and some of these counties even have parts of the counties that were shaved off in places,” Rapert said. “It means a lot to those people if they would have had enough population where they could have stayed whole”
Rapert explained that the new number could not change districting. He says counts that impact a house congressional seat, however, could present a political issue spurring change.
For the state of Arkansas, he says his concern was federal funding.
“You're talking as much as $1.5 trillion a year," Rapert said. “If we are undercounted that means that we're really not getting our fair share of that return of federal money to our states for programs.”
A previous report from the census showed the same count had significant undercounts for Black and Hispanic populations across the nation, which some groups say would have a major impact in Northwest Arkansas.
Margot Lemaster, Executive Director of EngageNWA, says as the community grows, understanding the demographics is key for inclusion.
”The region is continuing to grow rapidly and continuing to grow in diversity and becoming increasingly diverse,” Lemaster said. “It's really important that people living here understand that and think about that when they're making decisions around their company or business the future of their company or business when they're making around hiring or other policies that they have within their organization”
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