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GOP expert behind proposed maps

Posted July 21, 2011

The GOP’s proposed new congressional voting map was officially introduced in Thursday’s Joint Redistricting committee meeting.

“We believe it fully complies with applicable federal and state law,” House Chairman David Lewis, R-Harnett, said. “We also believe that a majority of North Carolinians will agree that our proposed plan will establish congressional districts that are fair to North Carolina voters.”

Under the GOP plan, 10 of the state’s 13 congressional districts would lean Republican – a big change from the current split of 7 Democrats and 6 Republicans.

Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, asked Lewis how mapmakers justified giving their own party such a big advantage.

Lewis answered that, after drawing the 1st district, protected by the Voter's Rights Act, and the 12th, which has been the focus of more litigation than any other NC district, mapmakers followed the law regarding population and compactness.

“Things fell as they did,” he concluded.

As it turns out, “things” had a little help. Lewis said the committee hired Tom Hofeller to draw the maps. Hofeller, whom Lewis called “a well-respected expert in the field of map drawing,” was the redistricting chairman for the Republican National Committee from the 1980s into the early 2000s.

After the meeting, Senate Chairman Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, said he doesn’t believe Hofeller works for the national party any longer. He’s now a redistricting consultant. Rucho said Hofeller probably won’t be at any of the committee hearings, but he may be available for questions during next week’s session.

Lewis also said the committee chairs – himself, Rucho, and Reps Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, and Jerry Dockham, R-Davidson – had hired outside counsel to advise them on the maps. The two attorneys are Phil Strach, former legal counsel to the state Republican party, and Thomas Farr, noted Republican redistricting expert. Both are with Ogletree Deakins in Raleigh.

When asked whether advice provided by Farr and Strach to the chairs would be made available to the committee, Lewis said it would not, since the attorneys were hired to advise the chairs, not the committee as a whole.

Rucho confirmed Hofeller is being paid with state dollars through the General Assembly's budget, but the payment will be made through the attorneys as an expense. "That's how it's done," Rucho said. He wouldn't say how much Hofeller is being paid.

House Minority Leader Joe Hackney, D-Orange, who took part in the Democrats' last redistricting cycle in 2001, said his party had not brought in experts from outside the state. They hired consultant Kevin LeCount, now with SEANC, to advise them on legislative districts.  Hackney said LeCount wasn't highly paid  - "maybe 15, 20 dollars an hour."  UPDATE: LeCount disputes that figure. More on that here.

Hackney also said the Democrats had not brought in outside counsel until their maps went to DC for pre-clearance by the US Department of Justice. The DC firm that handled the pre-clearance process was Jenner and Block, a well-known Democratic legal firm that specializes in redistricting.   

81 Comments

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  • marktroll Jul 22, 10:24 a.m.

    ""When the Dems did this, it was about fairness...about everyone getting fairly represented.""

    lol. jim black.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jul 22, 9:15 a.m.

    When the Dems did this, it was about fairness...about everyone getting fairly represented.

    These Repubs couldn't care less about everyone having a voice or everyone being represented. They are merely serving themselves and their greed for money and power.

    There are 42% MORE Democrats than Republicans in NC. (44% vs. 31%)

  • marktroll Jul 22, 8:18 a.m.

    The restrictions of the Voting Rights Act that NC has to operate under is neither fair, nor legal. The VRA is the problem with NC's redistricting and gives both parties an excuse to make districts like the 12th. and now the 4th, and 1st.

  • The Fox Jul 21, 6:20 p.m.

    Multiply this by the redistricting going on in all the newly created Republican majority legislatures throughout the country, and you have a massive change occuring.

  • Hello_Golos Jul 21, 6:00 p.m.

    Why doesn't NC just redraw districts along county lines? Probably because it isn't good for Democrats or Republicans. It's good for the people.

  • CrewMax Jul 21, 5:47 p.m.

    I agree with BrightLight. Grow up and live in the real world, as the republicans have done for 100 years.

  • faperrigo Jul 21, 5:46 p.m.

    One definition of 'fair' is 'competitive'. Overall, there is potential for more competitive elections. Not all GOPers are happy with the maps as some of them are 'double-bunked'. Furthermore, if one listened to the debate, it sounds like every senator would be infavor of doing away with the VRA. Many, many said that districts should not be drawn with consideration to race- at least not as much.

  • geosol Jul 21, 5:40 p.m.

    "We promise that, if elected, we will make the electoral maps fair!!" WWWHHHOOOOPPPSSS!!! Kind of conveniently forgot about that little promise. Oh well, nothing new from the party of fear, hate, ignorance, and greed. Carry on; the way your party is acting currently it won't matter how gerrymandered you make the districts. REMEMBER IN 2012, and VOTE ALL REPUBLICANS OUT!!!!

  • BrightLight Jul 21, 5:22 p.m.

    Some of you people out there just need to deal with reality. The reality is that the article is not biased. It's just that NC Democratic politicians are as pure as the wind-driven snow when it comes to politically driven subjects like redistricting. There's just simply not much negative that can be said about them!!

  • hpr641 Jul 21, 5:19 p.m.

    North Carolina went to the polls last year and 54% of the US Congressional votes that were cast went to Republican candidates. However, Democrats won 7 of the 13 races. I think the districts kinda needed some change ... and maybe a little hope, too.

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