N.C. Lawmakers Hope Politics Will Not Play Role In Latest Redistricting Battle
Posted November 17, 2003 5:11 a.m. EST
RALEIGH, N.C. — The redistricting battle is about to heat up again in the Legislature. Public hearings are scheduled for Thursday in the House and Senate. After last year's redistricting problems, lawmakers say they will be extra careful not to let politics get in the way, but that may be easier said than done.
Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, has served six terms in the state House, two terms in the Senate, but this term could be his last. Thanks to redistricting, he could end up in a district with another long-time incumbent, Billy Creech.
"I'm hearing there might be members of our own party put in districts not for constitutional reasons, but for reasons to get rid of him," Daughtry said.
The General Assembly is redrawing legislative districts for the third time in as many years after North Carolina courts ruled two sets of previous maps unconstitutional. Some officials are worried about gerrymandering -- when lawmakers draw the lines in their own party's best interest. This time, Daughtry is afraid the opposite may be true because of his challenge to Republican House Speaker Richard Morgan.
"Politics have always gotten in the way of redistricting," Daughtry said.
Rep. Rick Eddins, R-Wake, co-chair of the redistricting committee, said his mission that was ordered by the court is to draw districts that will withstand constitutional muster and that some incumbents probably will not be happy.
Critics said the current problem is a perfect example of why lawmakers should not draw their own districts in the first place.
"I mean it should be boundaries for the people's interest and not the politicians," said Bob Phillips, of Common Cause, a grassroots group.
Common Cause believes an independent commission should take charge of redistricting. A bill creating an independent redistricting commission was introduced in the Senate this year, but it never made it to committee.