Sunday, July 3, 2011

New NC Redistricting maps promise to add GOP seats in U.S. Congress. Squabbles erupt.

Verne Strickland Blogmaster June 3, 2011


by BETH SHAYNE / NewsChannel 36
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Posted on July 2, 2011 at 9:08 AM
Updated yesterday at 11:59 AM 

As many as four Democratic members of Congress from North Carolina could find it much harder to win re-election under redistricted boundaries proposed Friday by Republican state lawmakers.

The draft of a redistricted map would increase the percentages of GOP voters in the 8th district, represented by Larry Kissell, the 13th District of U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, the 11th Congressional District represented by U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, and U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre's 7th district.

Of North Carolina's 13 representatives, 7 are Democrats. Six are Republicans. The GOP gained only one seat in the wave of Republican wins in 2010. With that in mind, Republicans in charge of the effort presented it as an effort to make North Carolina more competitive.

"While we have not been ignorant of the partisan impacts of the districts we have created, we have focused on ensuring that the districts will be more competitive than the districts created by the 2001 Legislature," said a statement from Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, and state Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, chairmen of the Legislature's redistricting committees.
Kissell, whose district will take in portions of GOP-friendly Randolph, Rowan and Davidson county, called it gerrymandering.

"Mine is not a Democratic or Republican agenda, it is the American agenda, an agenda that people of every political stripe can and do support. I plan to seek re-election, return to Congress and continue the fight on behalf of my constituents.

Should this proposed map pass muster with the courts and become the final map, I will welcome Rowan, Davidson, Randolph and Robeson counties into the 8th District and fight for them as I have fought for the current 8th District," Rep. Kissell said in a statement.

Jay Parmley, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, said Republicans overreached by creating a map that tries to favor their candidates in a state that's been politically competitive for the past decade. Republicans had a majority of the state's delegation just five years ago. "I would call it Republican greed," he said.

From his Matthews home Friday, Rucho told NewsChannel 36 the map is both fair and legal.

The process of redistricting is triggered each year by new population estimates totalled by the 10-year federal census. However, the process is generally considered political, as it is controlled by the party in power in each state. In 2001, during the last redistricting, North Carolina's legislature was held by Democrats.

Public hearings on the maps will be held next week, and new maps with districts for NC House and Senate elections will be released July 11. The Republicans want to approve congressional and legislative districts by the end of July. They have to be approved by the U.S. Justice Department or a federal court to comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, to ensure that they are free of discrimination against minorities.

The NC NAACP has already charged that they do not pass the discrimination test. In a statement Friday night, NAACP president Rev. William Barber called the map "a frontal attack on civil and voting rights," writing, ""Another major concern is that five counties covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act are being removed from the 1st Congressional District. In the heavily African-American area of Eastern North Carolina, this district was developed intentionally to overcome years of disenfranchisement and voter exclusion."

The maps were changed to reflect an additional 1.5 million residents in North Carolina since the 2000 Census. But the increase wasn't enough for the state to gain another U.S. House seat, as it did in the two previous redistricting cycles. The maps must be redrawn so a near-equal number are in each district -- 733,499.

The Associated Press contributed.
Online Proposed North Carolina congressional district map: