On the eve of a public comment meeting addressing proposed maps of minority districts, the joint chairs of the Redistricting Committee issued a statement today taking issue with some of the news coverage the maps have generated.
Chairmen Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, and Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, accompanied the statement with a point-by-point defense of their strategy to create more "majority-minority" VRA (Voting Rights Act) districts.
From the statement:
Lewis said, “As we have said from the beginning, our goal and purpose in the redistricting process has been to draw fair and legal districts. We have held more public hearings to date than have ever been done in the past and we are glad the public will have additional opportunities to have their voices heard now that proposed maps are beginning to be released.”
Rucho said, “The public hearing process is designed to allow legislators to hear from the public about their ideas on redistricting. We also hope to hear from members of the Legislative Black Caucus as well as our fellow Democratic legislators as we move forward with this process focused on being as open and transparent as possible.”
Over the past few days, some editorial page writers and some black lawmakers have suggested the Republicans are engaging in "packing" – that is, trying to concentrate minority voters into a few VRA districts in order to minimize their impact in neighboring districts.
Rucho and Lewis deny they're packing districts. In fact, they argue the Democrats' 2003 plan engaged in the opposite practice – "cracking" or splitting up minority communities to dilute their voting power.
"While districts that adjoin majority black districts may become more competitive for Republican candidates because of compliance with the VRA, such competitiveness results from compliance with the VRA," Lewis and Rucho's letter said.
You can read that letter here.
The public hearing Thursday starts at 3pm in seven locations around the state. The General Assembly website has more information on it. We'll be livestreaming it here at WRAL.com.
In the meantime, you can see the new districts in a lot more detail with a great new mapping tool updated today by the Redistricting staff.