Sebastian County Quorum Court redistricting raises questions about a proposed map

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 922 views 

Sebastian County Election Commission Chairman David Damron (upper right) discusses quorum court redistricting maps during Tuesday’s (Nov. 9) commission meeting.

A map has been drawn outlining proposed new zones for the Sebastian County Quorum Court, but no one will admit to who drew the map, and Election Commission Chairman David Damron refused Tuesday (Nov. 9) to clarify who drew the proposed map.

Damron said during the commission’s Tuesday meeting he had worked on a map with new zones for the county. 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. He said he wanted Commissioner Lee Webb to get with the Sebastian County Clerk’s office or Western Arkansas Planning and Development District (WAPDD) to draw a map for the commission to decide which map to use.

“And then we can come back and have at least two maps to look at. I have a map that I have worked on. I can show you if you want to see it. I prefer that you have a map,” Damron said.

Webb said state law says that the election commission shall draw the map. He told Damron that 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 said. “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.

State law requires a county election commission to draw quorum court maps, noting: “The county board of election commissioners in each county shall be responsible for the apportionment of the county into quorum court districts.”

Webb, who served on the election commission during redistricting following the 2010 Census, said, “I was here for the last (redistricting). We all met together in an open meeting and drew up the maps.”

Although Damron said he worked on the new map he wanted to present, he did say he did not physically draw the lines for the map. When questioned, he told Webb he did not have the tools necessary to draw the lines and received assistance for physically drawing the lines on his map. He would not answer Webb’s questions about who drew the map or where it was drawn or produced, stating he did not believe that information had any bearing on whether to use his map.

“It does if anyone other than an election commissioner drew the map because it clearly states the election commission draws the map,” Webb said after quoting from state law that election commissioners in each county shall be responsible.

“Point blank, I don’t think that you drew that map,” Webb said to Damron.

Webb said the commission has a contract with WAPDD to produce the map for the quorum court. Damron said he did not know that the election commission had a contract with WAPDD until Friday (Nov. 5). He also said that WAPDD had produced the map he had with him Tuesday.
Sebastian County Election Coordinator Meghan Hassler said she has no idea where the map was drawn or when or how it was drawn.

“I just received it (by e-mail) and forwarded it on,” she said.

Shannon Scott, GIS analyst with WAPDD, said they had not produced the map but rather had printed them, noting that there is a difference between producing maps with new district lines and printing one that was sent to their office.

“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.

“My concern is that I didn’t have any input. Knowing that I was going to be outvoted wasn’t really a matter. It was the point that I didn’t have any input at all. The first time I seen it was at the meeting today,” Webb said.

Damron would not say Tuesday who drew the map or where it was drawn. When asked, he said he had another meeting to go to and immediately left the room.

Webb agreed to work with WAPDD to produce a map that could be presented to the commission, along with Damron’s map, at a Nov. 17 meeting, though he said he did not believe it would matter if the commissioners were not going to bother reviewing both maps.

Election Commissioner Cara Gean said she would not vote for a map presented by Webb.

“It doesn’t matter because I’m not going to approve that map,” Gean said about the map Webb said he would work with WAPDD to produce.

Damron and Gean are Republicans on the commission, with Webb the Democrat member.