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“Just Arbitrary:” New Maps Surface at Joint Committee on Judicial Redistricting and Reform

Yesterday’s three-and-a-half hour meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting produced a new round of maps, a few heated exchanges, and no actual vote.

The meeting began innocuously enough; Brad Fowler from the Associated Office of the Courts (AOC) presented workload formulas for judicial officials, followed by almost two hours of questions from legislators.

Of course, the main event was yet to come: a battle over another set of new maps. New prosecutorial, district, and superior court divisions reading “Option A” were passed out during a short break about two hours into the meeting.

After introducing the new maps, Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) fielded questions from incredulous Democratic legislators who attempted to pin down the exact criteria used to redraw the districts. Exchanges between Burr and Democratic legislators became more heated; Sens Blue and McKissick repeatedly asked if there was a guiding criteria or rationale for drawing these maps other than “just arbitrary.” Burr recited his mantra that he was attempting to correct population imbalances and that he had met with judicial officials who wanted a map that was more in line with their existing districts.

Sen. McKissick, however, continued to push. Asking for a document that summarizes data of criteria, Burr pointed him to the website. However, McKissick responded that no written document exists there.

Seemingly dissatisfied with the tone of questioning, Rep. Stevens interrupted to say that the questions were argumentative and that because the maps were not formal, the only questions that were in order were those that dealt with differences between the new maps and the old.

However, as Rep. Darren Jackson pointed out, expecting the committee to ask these questions having only recently received the maps at 3 p.m. with neither a stat pack nor defining criteria seems absurd.