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GOP warned: Be fair in redistricting maps

NC General Assembly

GOP warned: Be fair in redistricting maps
August 10
05:00 2017

What kind of legislative voting district maps will the Republican leadership of the N.C. General Assembly come up with by Sept. 1, and what’s behind a new House bill designed to redistrict state judges? Those are two of the pressing questions hovering over state lawmakers as many gathered for the third Joint Select Committee on Redistricting today to further consider criteria for new voting maps ordered by a three-judge U.S. District Court panel two weeks ago.Democrats, and members of the general public, during a legislative hearing last week, made it clear that they want an above-board process, free of racial (as ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court) and partisan gerrymandering. Today’s committee meeting was scheduled to focus on adopting the criteria to determine what the revamped maps should look like once redrawn.

Democrats are concerned about the process because GOP legislative leaders have rehired

Thomas Hofeller, who drew the 2011 maps that the U.S. High Court recently ruled were illegal because 28 North Carolina districts were racially gerrymandered.“That doesn’t do much to restore people’s trust in the process,” said Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue. At an Aug. 2 press conference, Sen. Ben Clark (D-Cumberland), offered criteria that he and Senate Democratic leadership felt should definitely be considered in the mix, including partisan advantage in redrawing the districts; no splitting of voting districts (except when necessary) to comply with zero deviation population requirements; and ensuring the none of the nine Senate districts and 19 House districts deemed as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court shall have a total black voting age population higher than that which existed in those enacted N.C. legislative districts that were in effect in 2010.

In other words, Republican mapmakers can’t “stack-and-pack” more black voters into districts than there were prior to 2011 redistricting plan.

In response to the three-judge panel’s directive, Republican legislative leaders vowed to have one day of statewide public hearings on the new maps once they’re drawn, though they haven’t said when.They’ve circled Aug. 24 as the date the legislature will vote on the maps.

Sept. 1st is the court-imposed deadline for the legislature to submit the new maps, along with any supporting documentation, competing maps, and public testimony to the three-judge panel for review. Lawmakers are given the liberty of extending that deadline to Sept. 15 if they need more time.Ultimately, the federal court wants the new maps in hand, reviewed and approved long before

November, which is when Republican legislative leaders originally hoped to stretch the deadline out to.

Meanwhile the N.C. NAACP rallied across from the Legislative Building Tuesday, “to demand an illegal N.C. General Assembly to cease any new legislative action until new legislative elections are held on the basis of an electoral map that complies with the Constitution.”“The current leadership of the General Assembly was unconstitutionally empowered for the last three election cycles based on its own maneuvering to pass anti-Black, anti-Immigration, anti-gay, anti-healthcare anti-poor-people, anti- women, anti-workers, anti-democracy discriminatory redistricting maps,” said  N.C. NAACP President Bishop William Barber II in a statement. “It gained that power through a perversion of the Voting Rights Act and then abused its ill-gotten power at every turn.”

With the special legislative session reconvening on Friday, Aug. 18, there are rising concerns about House Bill 717 titled, “ Revise Judicial Districts.” According to Forsyth County NAACP President Rev. Alvin Carlisle, the bill “creates racially gerrymandered voting districts for district judges. We’re preparing a local campaign to resist it.”

Forsyth County is identified as being in Division Four for state district court judges, and Districts  30A and 30B for superior court judges.

“I am extremely concerned about HB717 judicial maps that force district court judges of the same political[party] to compete in a primary,” stated Rep. Evelyn Terry (D-Forsyth). That equates to worse. It’s called double-bunking.”

State Sen. Paul Lowe agreed that the judicial redistricting promised by Republican legislative leaders could bring a whole new fight.

“I think the judges are a major issue, a major issue,” Lowe said in a phone interview. “If we are able to win some seats back to win a super-majority [in the legislature] I think that will open up the door to some other opportunities.”

Translation – as long as the Republicans remain in control in the state legislature, it would be hard to stop their total reconstruction of North Carolina’s legislative and judicial power structure thus far.

Thus far, HB717 has not been debated on the House floor.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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