Friday, July 29, 2011

Redistricting maps cause of concern for New Hanover County party chairs.

Verne Strickland Blogmaster 

By Michelle Saxton  /  Lumina News  Thurs., July 28, 2011

New congressional redistricting maps have been met with bipartisan concern as chairpersons for both New Hanover County’s Democratic and Republican parties have voiced opposition to a proposal that would split the county into two districts.

"(At) the end of the day we care about having somebody represent us here in New Hanover County who understands New Hanover County," county GOP Chairwoman Rhonda Amoroso said Wednesday, July 27. "If this map gets approved we will have to work very hard to make sure we get someone elected who represents our interests here."

Under the congressional redistricting map, downtown Wilmington, parts of New Hanover County and most of Pender County would join the 3rd District, which stretches north up the eastern coast to Currituck County and is served by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. 

Most of New Hanover County would remain in the 7th District served by Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C. The 7th District would lose most of McIntyre’s home county of Robeson County to the 8th District and would gain the rest of Sampson County and stretch farther north into Johnston County. 

A congressional district should reflect, to the extent practicable, common interests and not mix coastal and agricultural areas willy-nilly, Amoroso has said. 

New Hanover County Democratic Chairman Alex Hall was concerned about both the congressional map and the proposed state House redistricting map, saying it appeared Republican leaders in the General Assembly were trying to dilute heavily Democratic districts.

"What they’ve done essentially is try to rig the election before the election takes place," Hall said Tuesday, July 26. "It’s offensive to the average citizen out there that thought that his vote counted."

Among proposed changes, state House District 18, which is in the northwestern corner of New Hanover County served by Democrat Rep. Susi Hamilton, would lose parts of downtown Wilmington and gain parts of northeastern Brunswick County.

Some New Hanover County precincts would be split under the new map, Hall said. 

"It’s simply to confuse the voters so they don’t know who they’re voting for," Hall said.
Amoroso said she had not heard any problems with the state House and Senate redistricting maps, and she believed some precincts currently were split.

"It does get a little confusing," Amoroso said. "They have so many constraints, the folks that are drawing these maps, to make sure the lines are drawn fair and legal."

A ripple effect occurred from redistricting changes to the 1st District, Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, has said, adding that lawmakers also tried to divide urban centers into more than one congressional district. 

"On one hand, is it better to have two congressmen representing your area to fight for your needs in (Washington) D.C. than to have one?" Amoroso said. "But we haven’t had that before."
"If they elect two very influential people … maybe it will help us," Hall said. "But I don’t see it, and it just smacks of gerrymandering."

Each of North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts must have 733,499 people, and lawmakers must address minority-majority districts first under the Voting Rights Act, Amoroso said.
The VRA was enacted to protect minorities’ voting rights from discrimination, but Amoroso said it also can make it challenging to avoid gerrymandering.

"There’s no perfect map for everybody in the state," Amoroso said. "Our interests here down in the coast are going to be different than something up in Johnston County."

Hall agreed, "Our transportation needs in New Hanover County are different than those in Sampson County. The needs of Wilmington are different than those in the rural parts of Brunswick County," he said.
Redrawn maps must be approved by the United States Department of Justice.

Redistricting information is on the General Assembly website: