Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Kirk Smith has asked for “the political breakdown” of redistricting proposals submitted to the board by county staff, according to an email obtained by The Rant.

“After this evenings (sic) presentation on the proposed redistricting, I would like to know the political breakdown for each proposed district,” Smith, one of the board’s four Republicans, wrote to County Manager John Crumpton on Sept. 8, a little more than an hour after a presentation to the full board of four new map proposals by Lee County GIS Director Don Kovascitz.

Commissioners are required to redraw their electoral districts every ten years to reflect population changes after the decennial Census. Smith’s request is notable because courts in North Carolina have ruled that partisan political data shouldn’t be considered when drawing electoral maps, and rules adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly for the drawing of its own districts also forbid its use.

The Rant has reached out to Smith via email and will include his response if he makes one.

Crumpton responded to Smith’s email the same night that “this information can be provided and I want to make it clear that all the Commissioners will receive this information,” but told The Rant Friday that he and County Attorney Whitney Parrish ultimately advised the board that providing political data could open the door for a redistricting lawsuit. The only additional data that has been provided since for the proposed districts (a fifth has been added since Kovascitz’s presentation) is the number of registered voters in each. All five district proposals were drawn, however, using total population and not registered voters.

A continuation of the redistricting discussion is on the agenda for the commissioners meeting on Monday, Sept. 20, and a public hearing on whatever proposal the board chooses will take place sometime after that. Crumpton said the county’s goal is to have new districts adopted by mid-October, a month ahead of the November deadline.