Local News

State Lawmakers Being Recalled To Fix Error In Redistricting Maps

Posted May 21, 2002

— State lawmakers are being called back to Raleigh to correct one problem in the mapping process.

An error in an Edgecombe County precinct will require lawmakers to meet Tuesday to make the correction. Lawmakers inadvertently placed an Edgecombe County precinct into House District Eight, which includes portions of Pitt, Martin and Greene counties.

The news comes after state lawmakers turned in their maps to Johnston County Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins Monday afternoon.

Lawmakers were forced to redraw the maps in a Special Session last week after previous ones were found unconstitutional. Jenkins now has three options: he could order changes to the maps that were submitted, accept the maps as is, or he could enlist the help of the two outside experts he has hired and draw the maps himself.

Democrats feel that they obeyed the court order with the new state maps while Republicians claim the maps are not as fair as they would like them. They would like the judge to throw out the new maps.

A hearing to discuss the new maps is set for Wednesday in Smithfield.

The House approved the plans, drawn by Democrats, in a 62-53 vote largely along party lines. The Senate voted 28-9 for the plans, also in a partisan vote.

The plans for new legislative districts were approved in time to meet Monday's court-imposed deadline.

However, the debate is not over, and both sides are promising a big fight at the next court date.

"The Democrats plan still violates the constitution, violates the rights of the citizens to elect representatives of their choice," said Rep. Art Pope, (R) Wake County.

Republicans vow to be back in court, challenging the Democrat's plan which passed Friday night.

"There are some folks that are trigger happy with lawsuits, and there's nothing you can do about that. It's their constitutional right," said Rep. Ronnie Sutton, (D) Robeson County.

Democrats said they cut the number of districts that were spilt by counties from 70 to 43. Splitting counties was the big argument of the lawsuit. They believe the plan is fair.

"A lot of compromises, and we were able to work it out in that manner," Sutton said.

Lawmakers met last week in a special session to redraw legislative lines after the Supreme Court ruled that districts approved last fall were unconstitutional.

The ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought by Republicans legislators, who claimed Democratic leaders divided more counties than were necessary to gain an unfair advantage.

Republicans said the process was a waste of time and money, costing taxpayers $120,000 per day for four days.

Even if that plan receives final court approval, it leaves unanswered one fundamental question: when is the state finally going to hold this year's primary elections?

The setting of the date will determine also determine whether the state has enough time to hold run-off primaries. And that's an issue of critical importance to the political candidates lining up to seek office in North Carolina, from sheriff to U.S. Senate.

It will still be several more weeks before state election officials know when they can hold a primary election.

Before that happens, the new legislative plans have to receive court approval, or be replaced by court-drawn plans. Then the U.S. Justice Department must give its OK to the maps, examining how they effect minority voting.

Once the new maps receive Justice Department preclearance, which could take as long as 60 days, legislative candidates will be given a new filing period - 10 days to two weeks - to announce their intentions to seek office. Then, election officials say, it will take at least five weeks for ballots to be printed and absentee voting to be held.

All of that could add up to a mid-September primary. And that would leave no time for a runoff primary.


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