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Sebastian County election chair resigns from post

by Thomas Saccente | January 12, 2022 at 7:00 a.m.

FORT SMITH -- The chairman of the Sebastian County Election Commission announced his resignation effectively immediately.

David Damron stepped down from his position right before the end of the Election Commission's meeting Monday, according to Meghan Hassler, county election coordinator.

Hassler said Tuesday the Election Commission approved a new voting precinct map for the county in the wake of redistricting due to the 2020 federal census at this meeting. The map was created by the Fort Smith-based Western Arkansas Planning and Development District.

"I'm very sad to see him go," Hassler said. "He was very professional to work with, and the institutional knowledge we will lose is huge, and I'm going to miss my friend."

Damron, a Republican, said Tuesday it was just time for him to resign.

Damron said he was elected to serve on the Election Commission by the Sebastian County Republican Committee. He had spoken with the committee's chairman, Larry Bishop, about resigning several weeks ago. However, Bishop asked him to get the finalization of the voting precinct map taken care of before he did so.

The earliest oath Damron took to serve on the Election Commission dates back to 2010, according to the Sebastian County Clerk's Office. Damron estimated he became chairman about eight years ago.

Hassler said Cara Gean, who until Monday had been the commission's vice chairwoman, became chairwoman after Damron's resignation. The county Republican Committee will fill the vacancy left behind. Lee Webb, a Democrat, remains on the commission.

Gean, a fellow Republican, did not return a phone message requesting comment by deadline Tuesday.

This comes after the commission approved a map Damron presented rezoning Sebastian County's 13 justice of the peace districts Nov. 17. Each of the districts, which are incorporated into the new voting precinct map, has one justice of the peace on the county Quorum Court.

Hassler has said drawing the Quorum Court districts is the commission's responsibility. Election districts are redrawn every 10 years to reflect population changes outlined in the federal census with the intent of equalizing the districts' population.

Damron originally presented his map Nov. 9, saying he worked on it with outside assistance. However, when Webb asked Damron who drew the map, Damron didn't answer.

Webb said he wanted the commission, rather than an individual commissioner, to work on drawing a map together in an open meeting. He went on to present his own map, which he made in collaboration with the Planning and Development District, Nov. 17 as well.

Damron didn't return two messages left before Nov. 17 asking who drew the map he presented and declined comment in person after the meeting that day. No public comment period on rezoning the Quorum Court districts was held beforehand either.

State law, specifically Arkansas Code Annotated §14-14-405 through 407, states residents can file a lawsuit to contest this apportionment plan with the county Circuit Court within 30 days of the County Clerk having the new boundaries of the districts and numbers of people who live in them in a "newspaper of general circulation in the county." The County Clerk will send the Secretary of State a certified copy of the record made of the plan within seven days after this filing period expires.

Hassler said Monday was the end of this 30-day period. No lawsuits have been filed to her knowledge.

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Members of the Sebastian County Election Commission are paid $100 per meeting.

Source: Meghan Hassler, county election coordinator

Print Headline: Sebastian County election chair resigns from post

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