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Public sounds off on prospect of new NC congressional maps

Posted February 15

— Dozens of people braved snow, sleet and hazardous driving conditions Monday to speak out about a federal court order for North Carolina lawmakers to redraw congressional district maps by the end of this week.

The General Assembly is under a Friday deadline to reconfigure the maps after a three-judge panel ruled Feb. 5 that the 1st Congressional District and the 12th Congressional District are unconstitutional because the race of voters was the predominant factor in determining their boundaries.

Lawmakers still haven't rolled out any maps showing proposed replacements for the two invalidated districts – and the impacts changes would have on surrounding congressional districts – but they heard from more than 60 people in a five-hour hearing conducted simultaneously at six sites around the state.

Most agreed the prospect of changing the districts now, with the March 15 primary a month off and mail-in absentee voting already underway, would create chaos, but few offered constructive comments on how to fix the problem.

Most chose to point fingers. Some blamed those who filed the federal lawsuit challenging the districts.

"This is not your fault. This is the fault of the sore losers," said Jay DeLancy, director of the Voter Integrity Project. "The whole stink we're hearing today smells a lot like voter disenfranchisement."

"One has to wonder if this is all about changing all 13 districts, not just the 1st and the 12th," said Helen Pannullo, chairwoman of the 7th Congressional District Republican Party.

Others blamed the judges who made the ruling.

"They have changed the rules and the precedents after the game is done and the score has been submitted," said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

But most leveled the blame at the lawmakers who drew the maps and urged them to fix the problem fairly.

"It's a mess. You made it. Clean it up," said Gary Grant, a Halifax County resident who lives in the 1st Congressional District.

"You need to comply with the decision and stop pretending that it doesn't exist," Thomas Keith Thompson said, noting that lawmakers continue to insist that the maps were properly drawn.

"For 25 years we've been fighting this problem," Onslow County resident Bob Williams said, noting the two districts have been misshapen since the 1990s. "Race shouldn't play a role in redrawing districts."

Leaving the race of voters out of the calculus used to draw districts was one of the few suggestions offered to lawmakers on how to redraw the maps.

"It is just time to get rid of all racial considerations. We should draw completely color-blind districts without any regard to race," Woodhouse said.

Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, said the reason race is addressed by federal law in North Carolina is because the state has a history of racial discrimination at the polls. He said Republican lawmakers took a tool intended to fix that problem and made it worse.

"They were just blinded to the fact that they could load all the minorities into these two districts and take them out of the surrounding districts," Blue said. "The result of that is racial discrimination. Our Constitution does not permit it."

Other people called for making districts as compact as possible, not splitting counties, especially rural ones, between districts and keeping precincts intact as much as possible.

"Maybe you should completely redraw the 4th District while you're at it to make it more competitive," Lee County resident Jim Womack said, noting that the district overwhelmingly favors Democratic candidates.

Senate and House lawmakers are scheduled to meet Tuesday morning to discuss the feedback. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court stays the judges' ruling, a special legislative session would be needed by the end of the week to approve the new maps.

12 Comments

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  • Fox Watson Feb 22, 2016
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    A gigantic Debacle as designed and implemented by the NC GOP and Art Pope's Republican gangsters. Now , in order to fix this have to use the same group of right wing ideologues that drove the bus into the ditch to steer it back out? This is such a waste of money, time and potential watching this Legislature try and reinvent the wheel of democracy to only turn in their direction!

  • Roy Pine Feb 18, 2016
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    View quoted thread


    The challenges were made...took this long to make its way through the court system.

  • David Goetze Feb 18, 2016
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    These maps have been in place since 2011 and were blessed by the US Department of Justice under Eric Holder. If there were challenges to be made, it should have been made then and not after two elections cycles have proceeded under them (2012 & 2014).

  • Steve Clark Feb 17, 2016
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    View quoted thread


    Yes Ken, they HAVE an argument. The previous TEN census redistrictings have been gerrymandered to ensure the Dems would win... they didn't (after only 100 years). The Republican argument isn't "tired" because it's the first time it's been able to be used.

  • Steve Clark Feb 17, 2016
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    You're correct, Tom... the Dems should have charges brought against them for doing this for the past TEN censuses...

  • Clarence Drumgoole Feb 17, 2016
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    I guess all's fair in Love, War and Politics!

  • Kevin Oliver Feb 16, 2016
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    The argument, "the Democrats used to do it" is so tired. So you're no better than the Democrats? Two wrongs make a right? Whoever is manipulating districts to unfair advantage is wrong. The current party doing it is the Republicans. It's un-democratic and as we can see here blatantly illegal and racist. The prior commenter Rose has the best suggestion to get our corrupt legislature out of this business once and for all and have a neutral group or the feds draw geographic-based districts. Districts in the west will be white, districts in the east will be black, and districts in the middle will be mixed. Deal with it, that's the way the state is laid out geographically. No one with any common sense would try to justify this obvious manipulation of our democratic system. It's wrong. You have no argument. Just stop.

  • Kevin Weidner Feb 16, 2016
    user avatar

    I agree with you entirely. The sticking point is the term "illegally" - The maps in their current form have been challenged multiple times in previous suits and found to be legal by the NC supreme court. They were just recently challenged a third time, and two of the three judges presiding over the third case decided they were unfair as they were drawn because Race was the primary means of defining their boundries. Now, faced with the prospect of no race based data being included in the criteria for creating new districts, we're being told this isn't fair either as race is not being considered. The point is simple - you either use race or you don't. There will ALWAYS be someone who is dissatisfied with the results. You can't demand race be a contributing factor, and the use it as the rationale for disqualifying the result because you don't like it. I take that back. I guess you can if you use words like "poll descrimination" and "apartheid" as the basis for your argument.

  • Raleigh Rose Feb 16, 2016
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    View quoted thread


    Obviously the winning party is going to draw the maps to benefit their party. Whether that is right or wrong is certainly up for debate, but it goes both ways and both sides have done it. What the winning party cannot do is draw the maps illegally, which it looks like the GOP has done. Perhaps now is a good time to look at having a neutral party draw the maps so we don't have to put up with this nonsense from either party no matter who is in power. Draw the maps so that the will of the people is what is important and what is heard, not the will of one party.

  • Kevin Weidner Feb 16, 2016
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    Call it what it is - Democrats want to "have their cake and eat it to". When the NC legislature was under democratic control and "the public" complained of gerrymandering, we got the response "Elections have consequences". Now that the districts are drawn by a Republican majority, out comes the old "Race Card". The absolute hypocrisy of Democrat law makers is on full display. You either draw the districts with a blind eye, or you include race based population as part of the process. Either way, rest assured that if Democratic law makers feel slighted, they will continue to mount law suits as many times as required until they receive a ruling favorable to their position. Mr. Blue should be ashamed of himself, but at the end of the day, his true color is on display for all to see.

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