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More cities, counties drafting opposition to judicial reform, redistricting

More cities and counties across the state have jumped on the bandwagon of expressing their disapproval of proposed judicial reform and redistricting.

The Fayetteville City Council, Durham County CommissionersPitt County Bar and Pitt County Commissioners have all passed resolutions putting their opposition in writing. Some of the documents oppose changing the election of judges (merit selection); some oppose judicial redistricting, and some oppose both.

Other counties that have passed similar resolutions include Beaufort, Rocky Mount, Nash and Davidson.

The resolutions state that the documents will be sent to the local legislative delegation and to all of the state’s 100 county boards of commissioners.

Judicial reform and redistricting have been hotly contested over the past year. The two main proposals lawmakers are considering are a “merit selection” plan proposed and supported by GOP members of the Senate, and a judicial redistricting plan, House Bill 717, created by Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly, Montgomery), which would change the way voters elect judges and prosecutors in the state.

There have already been 10 versions of judicial redistricting maps released, but no information about how the maps were drawn or what criteria was considered. The maps split some counties and double-bunks many judges, which means they could either face losing their seat or be forced to run against one of their colleagues in an election.

There has been widespread opposition from judges, attorneys, advocates, Democratic lawmakers and other judicial stakeholders to making such changes without thorough study and complete transparency.

Burr has touted working with judges to try and implement some tweaks to his maps but has yet to justify other changes, including the splitting of districts in urban counties and the separation of Chatham and Orange counties despite decades of their combining resources and funding.

It’s unclear what will happen in the upcoming short legislative session, but lawmakers have said they will vote on some form of judicial reform.

The Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting will meet at 9:30 a.m. Friday in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building. There is no agenda yet but the meeting is open to the public.

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