Sebastian County officials remain mum on who crafted quorum court redistricting map

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 937 views 

Questions raised Nov. 9 about the origins of a map outlining new zones for the Sebastian County Quorum Court remain unanswered, with the Sebastian County deputy clerk unwilling to discuss the possibility the clerk’s office made the map.

The county has to be redistricted to make certain each quorum court district has a similar population determined by data from the 2020 census by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The map was discussed at the Sebastian County Election Commission meeting Nov. 9. At the time no one admitted to who drew the map, and Election Commission Chairman David Damron refused to clarify who drew the proposed map. Damron said during the meeting he had worked on a map with new zones for the county.

Commissioner Lee Webb said state law requires the election commission to draw the map. He told Damron he has not worked on a map because the commission had agreed Oct. 4 to hold a meeting to work on a map with new district or zone lines.

“Well I’ve decided that is probably not in the best interest, so I’m going to ask you to work with WAPPD or the county clerk to draw a map,” Damron told Webb at the Nov. 9 meeting. “I am not familiar enough with the law to know that we have to have a public meeting to draft the map. But I have a map that has been drafted that I am comfortable with. … I am not comfortable having a public meeting to draw a map.”

When questioned by Webb, Damron would not say at the meeting who drew the map. Damron also avoided questions from the media about creation of the map, and has not responded to repeated requests to talk about the redistricting process. Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue, who attended the Nov. 9 meeting, also did not phone messages.

The GIS software needed to build zone maps for the quorum court can be purchased by anyone, said Shannon Scott, GIS analyst with Western Arkansas Planning and Development District (WAPDD). She also said that there is free software that can be downloaded and used. In order to create zones with like populations, a mapmaker can use date for population provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, Scott said.

“The Arkansas GIS Office has provided a public link where just the State of Arkansas dataset can be downloaded or a feature service link can be established at https://gis.arkansas.gov/product/blocks-2020-census,” Scott noted.

Though Damron initially said WAPDD produced the map, Scott said they did not produce the map but rather had printed some maps sent to them.

“I haven’t drawn anything. We just did the 2010 map, worked with them for the redistricting,” she said. “There hasn’t been anything drawn (for the quorum court in our office with 2020 census data.). … We printed some maps sent to us. We at this point haven’t produced the lines for a new map.”

Webb said he was told the map provided by Damron was made in the county clerk’s office. Nesa Bishop, deputy county clerk, said the office would not comment on whether Damron’s map was created in the county clerk’s office.

“I’m not going to answer that. It is a rumor. Where did it come from? (I) can’t address it unless all parties involved are together,” Bishop said.

Webb agreed to work with WAPDD to produce a map that could be presented to the commission, along with Damron’s map, at noon Wednesday (Nov. 17).