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@NCCapitol

Voters' race ignored in drawing new congressional maps

Posted February 16

— After federal judges ruled that two of North Carolina's congressional districts were unconstitutional because the race of voters was the primary factor used to create them, lawmakers decided Tuesday not to consider race at all when drawing new maps.

The new maps also will be drawn to maintain the Republican Party's 10-3 advantage in the U.S. House, the Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting decided.

The General Assembly is under a Friday deadline to reconfigure the maps after a three-judge panel on Feb. 5 invalidated the 1st Congressional District and the 12th Congressional District. Republican lawmakers continue to argue that the maps they drew in 2011 are fair and are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court stays the ruling so as not to interfere with the March 15 primary, but they are laying plans to draw up contingency maps.

The committee of House and Senate members approved criteria for drawing the maps, including that districts have roughly equal population, split as few counties and precincts as possible, represent contiguous areas and not pit incumbent members of Congress against one another.

The notion that the race of voters not be considered drew sharp rebukes from black lawmakers, who said the GOP effort would "spit in the eyes" of the federal judges and would violating the federal Voting Rights Act.

"There are places in this state where the Voting Rights Act requires that race be considered to some degree," said Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake. "It’s transparent, the game you’re trying to play. It’s showing disrespect."

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, the co-chairman of the committee, denied any disrespect in excluding race. The judges criticized lawmakers' use of race in the 2011 maps and gave no guidance as to how it could be used properly, so it's best not to use it at all.

"You can use race, but it can't be the predominant factor," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham.

"Can use does not mean must use," Lewis replied.

The no-race criterion passed 23-11 along party lines.

Maintaining a 10-3 Republican majority in North Carolina's U.S. House delegation also was split down party lines.

"Why bake in the partisan advantage achieved through the use of unconstitutional maps?" asked Sen. Ben Clark, D-Hoke.

Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, noted that Democrats and Republicans have been fairly even in representing the state in Congress in recent years. Democrats have no problem giving the GOP a majority, he said, but such an imbalance is "highly improper."

Some GOP lawmakers scoffed at the Democratic protests, saying they were hypocritical after decades of gerrymandering to benefit Democratic candidates.

Lewis noted that Republican voters aren't a majority in any of the 10 districts the GOP now represents. The party has simply been able to attract solid candidates who appeal to the growing number of unaffiliated voters statewide, he said.

The committee also voted to dramatically change the shape of the 12th District, which snakes up Interstate 85 from Charlotte to Greensboro. The district has been the subject of court battles since it was first drawn in the 1990s.

The new maps won't be available for public review until Wednesday, at the earliest. Gov. Pat McCrory still hasn't called a special session of the General Assembly that would be required to approve them.

43 Comments

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  • Hamilton Bean Feb 18, 2016
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    For those who call for an independent, non-partisan group to draw the district lines--just WHO will be selecting the members of this "dream panel"?

  • Teresa Engel Feb 18, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    The "legal" gerrymandering was designed so that the politicians can pick their electorate. In a truly democratic world, the electorate should be picking their politicians. I totally agree that the map should be drawn up by a completely independent source. And for those arguing that we shouldn't challenge this gerrymandering by Republicans when we had no problem with Democrats gerrymandering for the last 100 years, I will point out that many did indeed have a problem with it then. A prime example of that would be the fact that there have been 30 challenges to gerrymandering in the last 30 years. It was wrong then, and is still wrong now.

  • Clarence Drumgoole Feb 18, 2016
    user avatar

    The State of NC is just begging to continually be sued by the Feds! Sad times in Carolina.

  • Roy Hinkley Feb 17, 2016
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    View quoted thread



    Well, yes, but not illegally rigging the system. I'd really like to see a non-partisan board develop the districts; one that would be charged with looking beyond petty politics and toward true citizen representation in the State.

  • Thomas White Feb 17, 2016
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    The districts were drawn so that it lessened the minority vote by dividing them into multiple districts. The fact that they are going to draw new districts where no incumbent will face another shows they are still manipulating the areas.

  • Thomas White Feb 17, 2016
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    View quoted thread


    Are you referring to minorities or incumbents?

  • Thomas White Feb 17, 2016
    user avatar

    When you decide that districts will be designed so no incumbents face each other you know that you are rigging the system.

  • Melanie Lane Feb 17, 2016
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    this argument makes no sense - if it was wrong when the dems did it, it's wrong now. Though we should all recognize that today it's even more precisely done than in the past. Computer models can do it to the point of perfection, Get it in the hands of non partisan people who have a directive to make districts as near to 50/50 as possible. Candidates should have to run on issues not on their base. Make them sell it, not just coast.

  • Steve Clark Feb 17, 2016
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    James, considering the past 100 yrs of Democrats 'skewing' the elections and districts to favor themselves, and this is the first time Republicans have had the responsibility of drawing the maps; .. what's your answer?

  • Melanie Lane Feb 17, 2016
    user avatar

    such an irresponsible headline and it's been up for a while now. It makes it seem like it's a statement of fact rather than a contention by those being accussed that it's not the case.

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