Local News

Redistricting Session Moves Into Another Day

Posted November 25, 2003 9:17 a.m. EST

— State lawmakers will be back early Tuesday to work on a map that affects where you will vote next year. It is the third time in three years they have had to redraw district lines.

In start-and-stop meetings that went until almost 10 p.m. Monday, both chambers rolled out their proposed maps. The House overwhelmingly approved its plan, 84-32.

The Senate failed to vote on its plan after deciding to make a final change, reconfiguring four districts in Gaston, Lincoln, Iredell, Catawba and Cabarrus counties.

Several lawmakers predicted the special session would be concluded by the end of Tuesday.

Both chambers also must approve each other's plan, and the Senate was expected to roll its proposal into the House bill, a move that would procedurally speed matters.

Republicans promised a court challenge to both sets of maps, claiming Democratic leaders violated federal law by diluting minority voting strength.

One got the sense from Monday's session that this is not something lawmakers want to do, but is something they have to do.

The map the lawmakers looked at Monday revealed how the House would like to carve up North Carolina's political landscape boundaries, which can determine the balance of power in the legislature.

In several cases, two members of the same party are put into the same district. Critics argue that that unfairly dilutes the voting pool, making it harder for incumbents to be re-elected. It was a big enough deal for Democrat Senator Tony Moore to switch to the Republican party.

Democrat Speaker of the House Jim Black admitted that not everyone is going to be happy.

"Somebody's political career is going to end because of this," Black said. "But there are other things they can run for."

The truth is, lawmakers have more to worry about than political careers -- like making sure the redistricting plan is constitutional. Twice before, courts have ruled it unconstitutional.

And even this time, no one is guaranteeing a slam dunk.

The Senate will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The House will meet at 11.

"We believe that we have done the best job that you can under the rules and regulations set down by the court," said Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland.

In 2001, the state Supreme Court ruled that the initial set of districts for the Legislature's 170 seats unconstitutionally divided counties, creating unwieldy gerrymandered districts intended to benefit incumbents.

In response to that ruling, legislative leaders delayed the 2002 primary elections and drew a second set of maps. But Johnston County Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins ruled that those districts did not meet the new criteria created by the state's high court.

Jenkins ordered legislative elections held last year using temporary maps that he approved, a move Democrats condemned as politically motivated.

The Republican legislators who filed the initial court challenge said they will sue again if the new maps ignore the court mandates. The new districts would be used through the 2010 elections.