Keeping up with the…judicial maps – There are now more than there are Kardashians

Keeping up with the…judicial maps – There are now more than there are Kardashians

Lawmakers late last week released two new versions of a judicial redistricting bill, making these the eighth and ninth maps released since last summer.

The two new maps, dubbed “Option B” and “Option C” are nearly identical with the only change made to district lines in Durham County.

The maps differ from “Option A,” the proposal released a little over two weeks ago, in all of the larger metropolitan counties and in the two districts encompassing Union, Anson, Richmond, Scotland and Robeson counties.

Lawmakers also added several district court judges, subtracted a few, and added one superior court judge in the new proposals.

They also released incumbency information for all three current proposals, Options A, B and C, though with some errors.

There aren’t currently any joint House and Senate judicial reform and redistricting committee meetings scheduled, and the legislature adjourned its special session yesterday without reviewing or considering the new maps. It is expected that they will take them up in the short session that will convene in May.

None of the committee co-chairs – Representatives Justin Burr (R-Stanly, Montgomery) and David Lewis (R-Harnett) and Senators Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), Warren Daniel (R-Burke, Cleveland) and Bill Rabon (Bladen) – returned an email seeking comment about the new maps.

Daniel did respond that if Policy Watch knew of inaccuracies in the maps, it should submit them to the committee via its “public comment page” for review. It should be noted that no such public comment page exists.

As before, Policy Watch reviewed the two new maps, as well as the incumbency information lawmakers compiled for all three maps. This time, we used the text of each proposed bill, rather than creating maps, to check the accuracy of the information.

The text of the HB717 proposals creates districts based on voting tabulation districts (VTDs). Policy Watch checked each affected judge’s VTD this week with the online voter lookup tool through the website of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

There are only two instances, both in Cumberland County, in which it was not possible to determine a judge’s precinct because two of the newly created districts contained one VTD split up by “block numbers.”

Board of Elections spokesman Pat Gannon said the board manages VTD lines, not block numbers and deferred to the General Assembly. For the purposes of this article, Policy Watch used lawmakers’ incumbency information to reference if those two judges were double-bunked or not.

Superior Court:

All of the district lines in urban counties were changed from Option A to Options B and C. The latter options also separate Robeson and Scotland counties and pair Scotland with Union, Anson and Richmond counties.

The other difference between the two maps is that there is one superior court judge added in Options B and C to District 4, which encompasses Sampson, Duplin, Jones and Onslow counties.

The only difference between the Option B map and Option C map is the district lines in Durham County, but it doesn’t actually impact the incumbent candidates there.

There are more superior court judges double-bunked in the Options B and C maps than in the Option A proposal.

“Double-bunking” for the purposes of this article means that there are a smaller number of seats in a judicial district than there are current sitting judges. That means incumbent judges in those areas would either be forced to run against another incumbent in an election or face losing their seat if their term expires after the seats are filled.

Twenty-four superior court judges are double-bunked in nine judicial districts encompassing 13 counties in the Option B and C proposals. That’s 25 percent of all superior court judges, up from 19 percent in the Option A map.

Of the 24 judges double-bunked, 16 are registered Democrats, five are registered Republicans and three are registered as unaffiliated with any party.

There are significantly more African-American superior court judges double bunked in the new maps – 39 percent (seven of 18 total judges) in both Option B and C compared to 11 percent in Option A.

Notably, the maps that lawmakers published with red dots representing current judges do not match the text of the accompanying bills or incumbency lists. There are a few mistakes in the incumbency information that was released:

Option A:

Judges Karen Eady-Williams and Donnie Hoover, both of whom would fall into District 26A in Mecklenburg County, are missing from the list.

Judge Michael O’Foghludha from Durham County is listed as being in District 18A in lawmakers’ list but would actually fall into District 18B based on the text of the accompanying Option A bill and the VTD that his residence is listed in. He is double-bunked either way; the discrepancy merely affects the other judge he will have to run against in the election (Judge Elaine O’Neal in this case).

Judge Marvin Pope from Buncombe County is listed as being in District 39B in lawmakers’ list but would actually fall into district 39C based on the text of the accompanying Option A bill and the VTD that his residence is listed in. This means he is not double-bunked even though the list shows that he is.

Option B:

Judge Hoover, who would fall into district 26E in Mecklenburg County in Option B, is missing from the list.

Judge O’Foghludha from Durham County is listed as being in District 18A in lawmakers’ list but would actually fall into district 18B based on the text of the accompanying Option B bill and the VTD that his residence is listed in. As above, he is double-bunked either way, and again with O’Neal in this proposal.

Judge Pope from Buncombe County is listed as being in district 39B in lawmakers’ list but would actually fall into district 39A based on the text of the accompanying Option B bill and the VTD that his residence is listed in. This again means he is not double-bunked even though the list shows that he is.

Option C:

The mistakes in this list are the same as in Option B above, but O’Foghludha would fall into 18C in this proposal, not 18B as listed, which means he would be double-bunked with Judge Orlando Hudson. O’Foghludha’s term ends this year, so if lawmakers passed Option C, he would likely lose his seat to Hudson, whose term ends in 2020 (there is only one allotted seat for that district).

District Court:

Just as above, all of the district lines in urban counties were changed from Option A to Options B and C. The latter options also separate Robeson and Scotland counties and pair Scotland with Union, Anson and Richmond counties.

Lawmakers subtracted one district court judge in Options B and C from District 1 (Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck and Dare counties), District 2 (Martin, Beaufort, Washington, Tyrrell and Hyde counties), District 7 (Nash, Wilson and Edgecombe) and District 18C (Durham County).

They added a district court judge in Options B and C to District 8 (Vance, Warren, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford and Bertie counties), District 4 (Sampson, Duplin, Jones and Onslow counties), District 5 (Wayne, Greene and Lenoir counties, District 24 (Union, Anson, Richmond and Scotland counties), District 28 (Stanly and Montgomery counties), District 30 (Forsyth County) and District 41 (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Swain, Macon, Jackson and Haywood counties).

Again, the only difference between the Option B and C district court maps are the district lines in Durham County. Option B double-bunks six district court judges from Durham and Option C double-bunks three.

The Option B proposal double-bunks the most total district court judges of the three maps. There are 59 district court judges double-bunked in that proposal, or 22 percent of all district court judges. It’s a one percent increase from Option A and Option C.

Option B also has the most double-bunked African-American district court judges at 32 percent. That’s two percent more than Option A and four percent more than Option C.

Of the 59 district court judges double-bunked in Option B, 43 are registered Democrats, 15 are registered Republicans and one is registered as unaffiliated. Of the 56 district court judges double-bunked in Option C, 40 are registered Democrats, 15 are registered Republicans and one is registered as unaffiliated.

Just as with the superior court proposals, the maps lawmakers published with red dots representing current judges do not match the text of the accompanying bills or incumbency lists. There are also a few mistakes in the incumbency information they released:

Option A:

Judge Julius Corpening from New Hanover County is listed as being in District 12A in lawmakers’ list but would actually fall into District 12C based on the text of the accompanying Option A bill and the VTD that his residence is listed in. This means that he is double-bunked even though lawmakers’ list shows he is not.

Judges Karen Eady-Williams and Donnie Hoover need to be removed from the Mecklenburg County list as they are now superior court judges.

Judge April Smith from Cumberland County is listed as being in District 15A in lawmakers’ list but would actually fall into District 15B based on the text of the accompanying Option A bill and the VTD that her residence is listed in.

Option B:

Judge Smith from Cumberland County is listed as being in District 15A in lawmakers’ list but would actually fall into District 15D based on the text of the accompanying Option B bill and the VTD that her residence is listed in. This means that she is double-bunked even though lawmakers’ list shows she is not.

Judge Luis Trosch from Mecklenburg County is listed as being in District 26A in lawmakers’ list but would actually fall into District 26H based on the text of the accompanying Option B bill and the VTD that his residence is listed in.

Judge Kimberly Best-Staton from Mecklenburg County is listed as being in District 26A in lawmakers’ list but would actually fall into District 26D based on the text of the accompanying Option B bill and the VTD that her residence is listed in.

Judge Jefferson Griffin from Wake County is listed as being in District 10C in lawmakers’ list but would actually fall into District 10D based on the text of the accompanying Option B bill and the VTD that his residence is listed in. This means that he is double-bunked even though lawmakers’ list shows he is not.

Judge Kimberly Best-Staton from Mecklenburg County is listed as being in District 26A in lawmakers’ list but would actually fall into District 26D based on the text of the accompanying Option B bill and the VTD that her residence is listed in.

Judge Camille Prince from Forsyth County is listed as being in District 30C in lawmakers’ list but would actually fall into District 30B based on the text of the accompanying Option B bill and the VTD that her residence is listed in.

Judges Karen Eady-Williams and Donnie Hoover need to be removed from Mecklenburg County. They are now superior court judges.

Option C:

The errors are the same as in Option B.

Policy Watch will continue to monitor developments in judicial redistricting in the weeks and months ahead. Stay tuned.