North Carolina's Redistricting News
(December 30, 2000-November 1, 2001)
 

 News and Observer: "N.C. House Finally Approves Redistricting Plan." November 1, 2001
 News and Observer: "Utah Loses Bid to Wrest Congressional Seat from North Carolina." November 1, 2001
 News and Observer: "Legislators Reassure NAACP on Districts." October 30, 2001
 Charlotte Observer: "Black Pressed to Link Remap, Lottery Votes." October 29, 2001
 News and Observer: "Redrawing Maps Hints of Power Grab." October 29, 2001
 Charlotte Observer : "NAACP backs more minority districts." October 26, 2001
 Charlotte Observer: "New Qualms Doom Plan for Elections." October 25, 2001
 Associated Press: "NAACP Statement May Complicate N.C. House Map Impasse." October 25, 2001
 Charlotte Observer: "Legislative Delegation Grows By Two Under Plan." October 24, 2001
 Associated Press: "N.C. House Tentatively Approves New District Maps for Chamber." October 23, 2001
 News and Observer: "Redistricting Delayed Again in State House." October 18, 2001
 Associated Press: "N.C. House GOPs Pledge to Vote Together on Redistricting." October 16, 2001
 Associated Press: "Dissident Democrats See Voting Rights Violation." October 12, 2001
 Associated Press: "Redistricting Trial Scheduled Next Year." September 29, 2001
 Associated Press: "North Carolina Dems threaten GOP in redistricting."  September 3, 2001
 Washington Post: "Editorial: Slapstick With Maps." April 25, 2001       
 New York Times: "The Court Finds Room for Racial Candor." April 23, 2001       
 Los Angeles Times: "Justices back race-based redistricting." April 19, 2001       
 Capitol Letter: "Census numbers will reflect good, bad for North Carolina." December 30, 2000

More Recent Redistricting News from North Carolina

 

News and Observer
N.C. House Finally Approves Redistricting Plan
November 1, 2001 

The state House gave final approval to its own redistricting plan Thursday after several changes were made to appease black Democrats and help save one Republican's seat.

By a vote of 63-57, the House approved the compromise reached between Democratic leaders and five black lawmakers to solidify minority representation and expand the party's control in the chamber.

The vote went largely along party lines as Republicans denounced House Speaker Jim Black for stifling debate, screaming at him to be recognized. After the rancorous session, GOP leaders said they would file lawsuits challenging the maps and Black's conduct, which they said violated parliamentary rules and their constitutional rights.

The final vote on new district boundaries for the House's 120 seats had been delayed for more than a week as black lawmakers complained the version before them reduced minority influence. Their votes were critical because the Democrats only have a 62-58 advantage in the chamber.

News and Observer
Utah Loses Bid to Wrest Congressional Seat from North Carolina
November 1, 2001

In a dispute involving the 2000 census, Utah lost a round Thursday in an effort to wrest a congressional seat from North Carolina.

A panel of federal judges voted 2-1 to dismiss Utah's suit, which would have given the state a fourth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said he will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

North Carolina officials said they hope Utah abandons the effort. North Carolina gained a 13th seat in Congress because of the census.

The suit was one of two that Utah has filed questioning the Census Bureau's figures. The state missed out on a fourth congressional seat by 856 people.

In the other suit Utah unsuccessfully argued that Mormon missionaries who were out of the country in April 2000 should have been included. Utah lost that suit as well and is appealing to the Supreme Court.

In the case decided Thursday, Utah's claim was based on a method used by the U.S. Census Bureau in the once-a-decade count.

When census workers couldn't count people at a given household after repeated visits, the Census Bureau would assume the same number of people lived there as in the neighboring dwelling.

News and Observer
Legislators Reassure NAACP on Districts
By Wade Rawlins
October 30, 2001

Leaders of the N.C. NAACP and lawmakers met Monday and agreed to consider ways to draw 14 predominantly black districts.

State NAACP leaders say any redistricting plan should at a minimum keep the current number of majority African-American districts.

Both sides called the meeting productive. But lawmakers who attended the meeting stopped short of guaranteeing the Democratic-drawn redistricting map would contain 14 majority black districts of the total 114 proposed.

"We agreed it basically can be done," Melvin "Skip" Alston, president of the N.C. NAACP, said after the meeting.

Rep. William Wainwright, a Democrat from Havelock and vice chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said mapmakers will look at various scenarios and stay in touch with NAACP leaders.

"We're going to take a look at everybody's ideas and try to come up with a positive ending," Wainwright said. "We want the total membership of the Legislative Black Caucus to have input."

Lawmakers are required to draw new districts after the federal census to make sure the districts have the same number of people.

The Democrats' plan proposes 12 districts with African-American majorities and eight districts where blacks exercise strong influence with 40 percent to 49 percent of the population. There are now 14 districts with majority black populations and six others where blacks have strong influence.

Democrats, who hold a slim 62-58 majority, are trying to pass a House redistricting plan that expands Democratic control while maintaining adequate minority representation.

House Minority Leader Leo Daughtry, a Smithfield Republican, complained that House Speaker Jim Black had been unfair in the redistricting process, refusing to allow any amendments.

Rep. Pete Cunningham, a Charlotte Democrat, said Democratic mapmakers wanted to make sure that in creating additional majority black districts they didn't risk losing adjoining black districts that could cost Democrats control of the House.

"Picking up a couple of seats doesn't necessarily give you a majority to control the House," Cunningham said. "That is what this is all about."

Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat, said the plan as currently drawn includes "a lot of retrogression." The federal Voting Rights Acts forbids drawing districts that dilute the voting power of racial minorities.

"We can do 14 majority minority districts without hurting Democrats," he said.

Staff writer Wade Rawlins can be reached at 829-4523 or [email protected]

Charlotte Observer
Black Pressed to Link Remap, Lottery Votes; Speaker won't confirm Fitch will back districts if lottery vote's planned
By Mark Johnson
October 29, 2001

The squabble over a new map for N.C. House districts could resuscitate a proposed state lottery and shift districts in Mecklenburg County.

Rep. Toby Fitch, D-Wilson, who leads a handful of Democrats opposing the new map, has asked House Speaker Jim Black to hold a vote on the lottery in exchange for Fitch's support of the redistricting plan backed by Black, according to House leadership sources.

"Toby wants the lottery," one source said. Fitch did not return a call to his office Friday. Black, D-Mecklenburg, said he would not disclose conversations with members but said redistricting and the lottery don't mix.

"I will not be making that kind of a deal," Black said. "If the lottery comes up before we adjourn, it will not involve a deal for a vote."

House Democrats control a slender majority, so the opposition by Fitch and at least two other African American Democratic lawmakers was enough last week to halt efforts to pass a new map of legislative districts. The dissenters, two of whom voted for the map on Wednesday, criticized it Thursday for reducing the number of majority black districts from 14 to 12.

The state NAACP raised the same objection, saying two more majority black districts could be added to keep their number at 14. Mecklenburg County has been targeted for one of those additional districts.

"The NAACP has made it known that they think it could be done and should be done," Black said.

The legislature redraws district boundaries every 10 years, after the census, to ensure that each district contains roughly the same number of people. The battles develop over how many registered Republicans and Democrats reside in each district.

Democratic Rep. Ruth Easterling's retirement makes it easier to create a new district in Mecklenburg. Without an incumbent to irritate, lawmakers have a freer rein to manipulate district lines. Easterling's district is in central Charlotte.

The House could take up redistricting again Monday night.

Mark Johnson can be reached at (704) 358-5941 or [email protected]

News and Observer
Redrawing Maps Hints of Power Grab
By Wade Rawlins
October 29, 2001

The standoff over the shape of new districts for the state House of Representatives reveals politics in its most elemental form -- the struggle to gain legislative seats and therefore, political power.

House Democrats, who hold a slim 62-58 majority, are trying to pass a legislative redistricting map that strikes a delicate balance of increasing the number of districts where Democrats can win, while maintaining adequate minority representation.

But House leaders' Democratic majority splintered last week when several African-American lawmakers said the proposed map would reduce the number of African-American lawmakers over the next decade. NAACP leaders added their voice to the opposition. The Democrats' plan proposes 12 districts with African-American majorities. There are now 14 districts with majority black populations.

Meanwhile, Republicans would like to step into the breach with a plan that has up to 17 predominantly black districts, including additional majority black districts in Raleigh and Charlotte. At the same time, the GOP plan would raise the number of districts favorable to Republicans.

The once-a-decade redistricting exercise involves divvying up the seats to account for changes in population so that legislators represent about the same number of people. Implicit in that is the division of power.

"You're dividing up political power by party, by county, by region, by race," said state Rep. Martin Nesbitt, an Asheville Democrat and political veteran. "I don't know how you get any more of a bottom line in politics than that."

Democratic lawmakers will meet today with leaders of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to try to address their concerns about the redistricting plan. State NAACP leaders said any plan should at a minimum keep the same number of majority African-American districts.

The federal Voting Rights Act forbids drawing districts that dilute minority voting strength. For the 40 counties in North Carolina that have a history of polarized voting, this means avoiding "retrogression," or diluting the voting power of racial minorities.

"We are not going to be happy with a plan that is going to reduce African-American representation," said Melvin "Skip" Alston of Greensboro, president of the state NAACP, in an interview. "Some of our lawmakers' first priority is political empowerment. Ours is political empowerment of the minority community."

Alston said NAACP leaders wanted to work with lawmakers on both sides of the issue. He said the group could always make its views known to the Justice Department and in the courts, if necessary.

State Rep. Pete Cunningham, a Democrat from Charlotte, who set up the meeting, said lawmakers wanted to lay out the bigger picture for NAACP leaders and draw additional majority minority districts if feasible.

"You have to look at who is going to control the whole General Assembly," Cunningham said. "Right now, this plan is better than anything else that has been offered, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved."

House Speaker Jim Black, a Matthews Democrat, said that the proposed Democratic map treated minority voters fairly and noted that 13 of the 18 African-American representatives favored it.

"The members of the caucus who are in favor have told me they are still in favor of this plan," Black said. "Because of changes in population, the African-American community is still represented as well as it can be in this plan."

Black remained optimistic that the House would pass a redistricting plan this week. He didn't rule out revising the map to increase the number of districts with predominantly black populations, but there is a political price to that.

"Every time you change one district, you change the districts around it," Black said. "When you do that, you can change the balance of power in the state. I personally believe African-American citizens will fare better under Democratic leaders in the next 10 to 20 years."

State Rep. Art Pope, a Raleigh Republican, said the Justice Department would look at whether there were reasonable alternatives for additional predominantly black districts. He disputed Democratic leaders claim that population changes made it difficult to draw more majority minority districts.

"The fact that black members and leaders in the black community take the same position tremendously strengthens the claim that the current plan will not pass muster with the Voting Rights Act," Pope said. "It may pass the General Assembly, but it is going to be sent right back by the Justice Department or the courts."

Staff writer Wade Rawlins can be reached at 829-4523 or [email protected]

Charlotte Observer
NAACP backs more minority districts; Legislators sent home to await plan that can win House majority
By Gary D. Robertson
October 26, 2001

The state House adjourned for the weekend Thursday without a final vote scheduled on a new district map, as a statement from the NAACP threatened to unravel a frayed Democratic coalition.

The state chapter of the civil rights organization said it supported efforts by a handful of unhappy black Democrats to increase the number of majority-black districts in proposed boundaries for the next decade.

The latest plan from the House Democratic leadership creates 12 districts with a black population of more than 50 percent. A decade ago, 16 were created but the number has since dropped to 14.

At a minimum, any redistricting plan needs to have 14 majority-minority districts, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said in a news release. State president Skip Alston of Greensboro said black citizens need more assurances that they'll have a chance to elect the candidate of their choice.

"We're not going to support anything that reduces African American influence, and in fact would like something to increase influence," Alston said.

Five black Democrats have complained the plan reduces black political influence in the chamber and violates the Voting Rights Act. Redistricting lays the groundwork for political power and policy at the General Assembly for the next 10 years.

The NAACP statement not only energizes dissenting Democrats but may influence all 18 black House members to take a second look at the map. Most of the dozen or so black lawmakers that back the plan also are longtime NAACP members.

"I'm very concerned about this statement," said Rep. Thomas Wright, D-New Hanover, who backs the plan. He wants the Legislative Black Caucus to meet with NAACP leaders. "This statement will be sent to a lot to African Americans across the state."

The Democrats' fragile majority cracked Wednesday when two black members who had voted for the plan Tuesday reversed themselves on the floor, criticizing the map for failing to create more majority-black districts.

Speaker Jim Black pulled the bill, since a few changed votes could mean its defeat. There was no debate on the map Thursday as black representatives huddled to try to reach an agreement.

Black said after the session he's willing to make more changes. Two districts with black populations of about 49 percent could be increased to reach 14 majority-black districts.

The NAACP's "opinion is very significant and very important to all of us," Black said. It's unclear if that would be enough to please Rep. Toby Fitch, D-Wilson, the leader of the dissenting Democrats. Fitch mentioned creating new minority districts elsewhere, something Black said mapmakers would review.

Census figures, on which the maps are based, point to possible majority-black districts in Raleigh or Charlotte.

Democratic leaders believe their map will withstand legal review. They worry creating more majority-black districts could make it easier for Republicans to win in surrounding seats, eroding a plan that is designed to expand on the Democrats' current 62-58 majority.

Fitch said he plans to suggest modifications next week.

"I am not working in any way to take this plan and turn it over to the Republicans in the House," he said.

Rep. Joe Hackney, the House's No. 2 leader, said Democratic mapmakers believe black candidates stand a good chance to win in a district with a black population of 40 percent or higher.

Republicans were kept largely on the sidelines of the debate, groaning when Black refused to allow them to offer their own plans during Tuesday and Wednesday's discussion.

"My frustration level, from 1 to 10, is about an 8 or 9," said Rep. Jim Gulley, R-Mecklenburg, a GOP leader on the House redistricting committee.

With their alternative plans out of the picture, Republicans seek to protect a few key incumbents in districts targeted for takeover by Democrats. Democrats respond that they can't get GOP members to commit to changes because of a pledge Republicans made to stick to the caucus line.

The delays - and the fact that congressional redistricting must also be approved - mean the session may run nearly to Thanksgiving and the start of the election filing period in January may be delayed.

Charlotte Observer
New Qualms Doom Plan for Elections; 2 Democrats fear loss of black legislators; session hastily ended
By Mark Johnson
October 25, 2001

Two African American Democrats, saying they feared a reduction in the number of black legislators, indicated they would switch their votes and derailed a redistricting plan in the N.C. House Wednesday.

The flip-flop forced Democratic leaders to abruptly adjourn the session before taking what otherwise would have been a perfunctory final vote on a new map for lawmakers' districts.

Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, and Rep. Mary McAllister, D-Cumberland, sided with Republicans, saying that the new map could be drawn with more districts where a majority of the population is black - so-called majority-minority districts.

The current map includes 14 majority black districts. The new map has 12.

"If we do anything, we should do more," McAllister said.

Both McAllister and Adams voted for the new map Tuesday, but they switched sides Wednesday and announced their opposition during speeches on the House floor while legislators were considering the redistricting plan.

McAllister's explanation: "My conscience beat me to death last night."

House Speaker Jim Black, heading off a likely defeat, orchestrated a quick adjournment without taking a vote. Typically the second vote on a bill is a formality.

African American leaders and Republicans in many states have teamed up in recent years to secure more majority black districts at both the state and federal levels.

Republicans benefit because concentrating blacks, who are reliable Democratic voters, in one district makes the surrounding districts more Republican and more likely to elect a GOP candidate.

"Any changes they make (in the map) will help, not only Republicans, but minority race candidates," said Rep. Connie Wilson, R-Mecklenburg.

Associated Press
NAACP Statement May Complicate N.C. House Map Impasse
By Gary D. Robertson
October 25, 2001

The state House adjourned for the weekend Thursday without a final vote scheduled on a new district map, as a statement from the NAACP threatened to unravel a frayed Democratic coalition.

The state chapter of the civil rights organization said it supported efforts by a handful of unhappy black Democrats to increase the number of majority-black districts in proposed boundaries for the next decade.

The latest plan from the House Democratic leadership creates 12 districts with a black population of more than 50 percent. A decade ago, 16 were created but the number has since dropped to 14.

At a minimum, any redistricting plan needs to have 14 majority-minority districts, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said in a news release. State president Skip Alston of Greensboro said black citizens need more assurances that they'll have a chance to elect the candidate of their choice.

"We're not going to support anything that reduces African-American influence, and in fact would like something to increase influence," Alston said.

Five black Democrats have complained the plan reduces black political influence in the chamber and violates the Voting Rights Act.

Redistricting lays the groundwork for political power and policy at the General Assembly for the next 10 years.

The NAACP statement not only energizes dissenting Democrats but may influence all 18 black House members to take a second look at the map. Most of the dozen or so black lawmakers that back the plan also are longtime NAACP members.

"I'm very concerned about this statement," said Rep. Thomas Wright, D-New Hanover, who backs the plan. He wants the Legislative Black Caucus to meet with NAACP leaders. "This statement will be sent to a lot to African-Americans across the state."

The Democrats' fragile majority cracked Wednesday when two black members who had voted for the plan Tuesday reversed themselves on the floor, criticizing the map for failing to create more majority-black districts.

Speaker Jim Black pulled the bill, since a few changed votes could mean its defeat. There was no debate on the map Thursday as black representatives huddled to try to reach an agreement.

Black said after the session he's willing to make more changes. Two districts with black populations of about 49 percent could be increased to reach 14 majority-black districts.

The NAACP's "opinion is very significant and very important to all of us," Black said.

It's unclear if that would be enough to please Rep. Toby Fitch, D-Wilson, the leader of the dissenting Democrats. Fitch mentioned creating new minority districts elsewhere, something Black said mapmakers would review.

Census figures, on which the maps are based, point to possible majority-black districts in Raleigh or Charlotte.

Democratic leaders believe their map will withstand legal review. They worry creating more majority-black districts could make it easier for Republicans to win in surrounding seats, eroding a plan that is designed to expand on the Democrats' current 62-58 majority.

Fitch said he plans to suggest modifications next week.

"I am not working in any way to take this plan and turn it over to the Republicans in the House," he said.

Rep. Joe Hackney, the House's No. 2 leader, said Democratic mapmakers believe black candidates stand a good chance to win in a district with a black population of 40 percent or higher.

Republicans were kept largely on the sidelines of the debate, groaning when Black refused to allow them to offer their own plans during Tuesday and Wednesday's discussion.

"My frustration level, from one to 10, is about an eight or nine," said Rep. Jim Gulley, R-Mecklenburg, a GOP leader on the House redistricting committee.

With their alternative plans out of the picture, Republicans seek to protect a few key incumbents in districts targeted for takeover by Democrats. Democrats respond that they can't get GOP members to commit to changes because of a pledge Republicans made to stick to the caucus line.

The delays -- and the fact that congressional redistricting must also be approved -- mean the session may run nearly to Thanksgiving and the start of the election filing period in January may be delayed.

Charlotte Observer
Legislative Delegation Grows By Two Under Plan; 13 Have Constituents in Mecklenburg as Power Moves to Urban Areas
By Mark Johnson
October 24, 2001 

Republicans don't like the new statewide map of N.C. House districts, but GOP lawmakers had few complaints about the boundaries in the Charlotte area.

The House tentatively approved the new districts Tuesday over Republican protests that the map was designed to create safe Democratic seats and preserve that party's slim majority. A final vote is expected today.

GOP members were particularly irritated that House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, would not allow votes on their amendments.

Rep. Sam Ellis, R-Wake, called the session "plain and simple tyranny," while Rep. Billy Creech, R-Johnston, said "dictatorship."

Black said Republicans had been given ample time to submit their requests to the redistricting committee. He acknowledged that as many as 66 of the 120 districts under the new map were solidly Democratic or leaned that way.

Under the plan, Mecklenburg County gained two representatives, growing from 11 to 13.

Every 10 years, after the U.S. Census, the state legislature redraws the districts for the N.C. House, N.C. Senate and congressional delegation so that the districts within each legislative body hold the same number of residents.

"In Mecklenburg County, I don't see massive changes," said Rep. Michael Harrington, R-Gaston, who gained several new Mecklenburg precincts and whose district will be split about evenly with Gaston County.

Rep. Drew Saunders, D-Mecklenburg and chairman of the county's delegation, said he heard little grumbling.

Saunders' district was among several that had grown so much in population that they had to shrink. The northeastern corner of the county, which had been in Saunders' district, is now split between Rep. Mitchell Setzer, R-Catawba, and Rep. Linda Johnson, R-Cabarrus.

Other significant changes in Mecklenburg included:

Rep. Jeff Barnhart, R-Cabarrus, edged into Mecklenburg's northeast side.

Rep. John Rayfield, R-Gaston, lost his Mecklenburg precincts.

The district of Rep. Connie Wilson, R-Mecklenburg, now stretches deep into Union County.

Wilson described the new map as "dumb" for failing to give Mecklenburg an entire new district. Democratic map drawers instead gave chunks of the county to lawmakers based in neighboring counties.

"They have a different legislative vision," Wilson said.

On a statewide basis, the map consolidates power in urban centers, adding legislators in Mecklenburg and Wake counties while merging slower-growing districts in the east and west.

A major point of contention was over the districts where a majority of the population is minorities. The original Democratic-drawn plan reduced the number of majority-black districts from 14 to 12, according to legislative research staffers.

Several African American Democrats in the House criticized the plan, which led to an amendment Tuesday that boosted the percentage of minority population in five districts currently represented by black incumbents. It left the number of majority-black districts at a dozen.

An additional district, in Robeson County, is majority Native American under both the current and new plans.

House Districts

Mecklenburg legislators by N.C. House district number, under the current and new plans.

Beverly Earle, 60 current, 88 new Drew Saunders, 54 current, 87 new John Rayfield, 93 current, not in Mecklenburg Pete Cunningham, 59 current, 89 new Ruth Easterling, 58 current, 86 new Martha Alexander, 56 current, 85 new Jim Black, 36 current, 82 new Jim Gulley, 69 current, 81 new Michael Harrington, 76 current, 100 new Ed McMahan, 55 current, 84 new Connie Wilson, 57 current, 83 new Linda Johnson, 79 new Jeff Barnhart, 80 new Mitchell Setzer, 90 new

Associated Press
N.C. House Tentatively Approves New District Maps for Chamber
By Gary D. Robertson
October 23, 2001

A divided House gave tentative approval Tuesday to its new district map penned by Democrats after key black party members agreed to an updated version.

Four of the dissenting black Democrats joined in approving the plan by a vote of 62-57 even though the updated plan still doesn't create additional majority-black districts, which some of the black lawmakers wanted. But the record-long legislative session in part prompted them to agree to less than they sought.

``We need to get out of here. We need to go home,'' said Rep. Mickey Michaux of Durham County, one of the black Democrats. ``I believe we need to come up with something. This is not the best in the world. But we have got to make a decision.''

Democratic leaders want to retain the party's majority in the chamber through redistricting, which is required by law every 10 years to adjust the representatives' districts based on population trends.

The GOP blasted House Speaker Jim Black for refusing to allow other adjustments and proposals to come up for debate on the floor besides the updated plan. Republicans called the move an affront to democracy and said Black had stifled open debate.

``This indeed is a sad day in North Carolina,'' said Rep. Russell Capps, R-Wake, who will be hard-pressed to win in his proposed new district with more Democrats. ``We're seeing a representative form of government being dumped into the trash can.''

But Democratic leaders edgy about getting the 61 votes they needed for a majority succeeded. Black, known for allowing extended floor debates, said he hadn't decided whether to allow amendments during Wednesday's final vote.

``I've always attempted to try to appease people,'' Black said, but ``I'm not going to take any amendments to unravel the plan to keep us here the next two months.''

House Minority Leader Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, said he doesn't know what he and fellow Republicans can do on the floor Wednesday.

``We don't know what the rules will be tomorrow,'' Daughtry said.

Five black Democrats derailed debate two weeks ago because they said the map would reduce the influence of minorities within the chamber.

The Democratic leadership tried to address their concerns, mindful of their slim 62-58 lead over Republicans. An updated map released Monday increased the minority population in five districts currently represented by black incumbents, but left the number of majority-black districts at 12. There were 16 created after the 1990 census.

But packing too many blacksówho traditionally vote Democraticóin some districts would make more white Democrats vulnerable to GOP candidates, according to mapmakers.

Michaux said that the proposal could have been better. But he said it was about time to get a map approved and sent to federal attorneys, who must sign off on the plan before election filings set for January can begin.

``I suspect there was a way you could do it to provide us with greater representation for African Americans and maintain the Democratic majority,'' said Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford.

Adams and Michaux were among the four dissenting Democrats who wound up voting for the plan. The fifth, Rep. Toby Fitch, D-Wilson, did not attend Tuesday's session. He did not immediately return phone calls.

All but one RepublicanóRep. Monroe Buchanan of Mitchell Countyóvoted against the plan. Buchanan was kicked out of the House GOP caucus a few months ago.

Republicans say the plan is unlawful because it puts black North Carolinians in a worse position politically compared to the current map. They tried to introduce amendments they said would increase black representation, but Black barred them from doing so, frustrating GOP members.

``If we want to bring down the integrity of this institution, the credibility of this institution, we are well on your way,'' said Rep. Larry Justus, R-Henderson, another redistricting co-chairman.

Democrats have said the GOP plans are designed to pack black residentsówho historically vote Democraticóinto districts so that the surrounding districts are Republican.

GOP members also say Democrats had agreed to merge Democratic and Republican plans but had backed out. A lawsuit also is possible.

Democrats say the district lines, which are projected to give the party between 65 and 70 seats, have been examined by attorneys and meet constitutional requirements.

``There have been many attempts to meet accommodations with the Republican Party,'' said House Majority Leader Phil Baddour, D-Wayne. ``It is absolutely ridiculous to call this plan unfair.''

Congressional redistricting also must be completed before the General Assembly can adjourn for the year.

News and Observer
Redistricting Delayed Again in State House
October 18, 2001

A week off wasn't enough for House Democratic leaders and dissenting lawmakers within their party to reach agreement on a redistricting plan that will guide elections for the next decade.

The House adjourned for the weekend Thursday without taking up the bill reshaping boundaries for House seats. Floor debate on a plan created by Democratic leaders was cut short a week ago when some black Democrats held out. They said the new district lines could be unlawful because it would reduce the political influence of the state's black population.

House Speaker Jim Black said he hopes that by early next week he can pool the 61 votes he needs to pass legislation reshaping the districts.

A few members let out gasps on the House floor Thursday after Black announced that the redistricting debate was postponed again.

House members expected to have a lengthy debate last week, perhaps meeting through the weekend. Instead, they adjourned for six days to give Democrats time to settle their differences. They returned to Raleigh on Wednesday, but failed to reach an agreement by Thursday.

The Democrats have a 62-58 edge in the chamber, but five black Democrats have not backed the boundaries presented by Sutton and carved by state Democratic leaders.

Associated Press
N.C. House GOPs Pledge to Vote Together on Redistricting
By Gary D. Robertson
October 16, 2001

House Republicans must join in a pledge to vote together on redistricting bills in order to shore up GOP unity and discourage dealmaking with Democrats, a GOP leader said Wednesday.

All but a handful of the 57 members of the House Republican caucus have signed the pledge, which demands each member follow the party position on redistricting or face expulsion from the group.

Others who haven't signed the pledge say they don't like their loyalty to their party being questioned.

"I think it's tacky," said Rep. David Miner, R-Wake. "This is an extreme measure to sign a pledge at the end of this long session on something as vital as redistricting."

Caucus members began signing the pledge late last week after GOP members became incensed with the Democratic plan. They accuse Democrats of partisan gerrymandering by packing Republicans into GOP districts, making the surrounding districts safer for incumbent Democrats.

House Republicans say the Democrats, currently with a 62-58 majority, would gain 10 more seats if the Democratic plan is approved. They say a proposed Republican map more closely reflects the increasing number of registered GOP voters.

"This map, it is to the extreme. There's no other way to put it," said Rep. Ed McMahan, R-Mecklenburg, who signed the pledge. "They drew these for one reason: trying to capture additional seats. It's certainly not representative of the voter registration of North Carolina."

Republicans need to stand united on an issue that will affect them for the next 10 years, House Minority Whip Frank Mitchell said.

Some GOP members had been talking with Democratic leaders about voting for the Democratic plan if their districts were adjusted to their liking, Mitchell said.

"It's going to create what we're going to be for the next 10 years," said Mitchell, R-Iredell. "We can't have people cutting sweetheart deals. ...This is a definitely a party issue."

The House is redrawing the district boundaries for the chamber's 120 seats. The maps are based on population changes in the 2000 Census released last spring. A public hearing on the Democratic plan was held Wednesday evening.

The pledge requires House Republicans to vote on the caucus position for legislative and congressional redistricting and to be present for every vote taken on the issues. GOP leaders are sending letters to lawmakers' home districts alerting them to the pledge.

A caucus member who has not signed the pledge said he doesn't normally sign pledges that are broad and open-ended.

This pledge could be perceived as "a pressure or intimidation tactic at a time when ought to be trying to expand membership in the Republican Party," said Rep. Richard Morgan, R-Moore.

Miner and Rep. Wilma Sherrill of Buncombe County also haven't signed the pledge. Another Republican, Rep. Monroe Buchanan of Mitchell County, is no longer in the caucus.

Even if all 57 caucus members vote together, Republicans would have to get a few Democrats on their side to block a Democratic plan. House Speaker Jim Black said redistricting leaders are making adjustments to their plan to satisfy concerns from members of both parties.

Black said he can't foresee the pledge helping: "I think that's really putting people on the spot."

There were 25 speakers at the public hearing attended by about 150 people in the Legislative Building auditorium. Speakers made recommendations about particular districts within the Democratic plan.

Many had unkind words for the map.

"When I looked at this map, it zigzagged and looked like an old jigsaw puzzle," said Christina Smith, a retired Fayetteville teacher. "But when I put this together, it didn't make anything at all."

"Your redistricting plan is an embarrassment," said David Iannucci with Wake County Young Republicans, calling it political gerrymandering.

Some also presented alternative plans. One by Rep. Art Pope, R-Wake, was designed to increase minority voting strength while meeting criteria of the Voting Rights Act.

Rep. Larry Justus, the GOP co-chairman of the House Legislative Redistricting Committee, also presented the Republican alternative to the Democratic plan. He said he had been told for months that the Democratic and GOP proposals would be merged into one plan for the entire House.

Rep. Ronnie Sutton, the Democratic counterpart to Justus, said it became clear last week that the two maps were just too different to put together in the next few weeks.

The new committee hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday.

Associated Press
Dissident Democrats See Voting Rights Violation; Redistricting hits a snag in House; Objection is that new districts would dilute minority representation
By Gary D. Robertson
October 12, 2001

Democratic leaders sent the House home for about a week Thursday without a redistricting plan in place after it became clear the party's proposal didn't have the votes to pass.

While Democrats have a slim 62-58 majority, five black Democrats unhappy with minority representation in the proposed district plan derailed efforts by Speaker Jim Black to get it approved this week.

Rep. Toby Fitch, D-Wilson, one of the five Democrats, said the plan debated Tuesday and Wednesday may lower black influence within the chamber, in violation of federal law.

"I want the Voting Rights Act complied with," Fitch said in an interview. "Presently, I don't think it is."

Black said he believed the Democratic plan will receive federal approval.

But he admitted that work would be done to meet as many of the dissenters' concerns as possible.

The House debated the bill Wednesday night but took it off the floor after three amendments, the last of which was a GOP change that passed because it received support from the five black Democrats.

The bill was taken off the floor again Thursday morning; Black said the next full floor session would be next Wednesday, further extending a record-long session.

"I thought it was time for folks to cool down and talk about the issues people seem to have problems with," Black said. "I think by next week we'll be on track," he said.

The impasse reflects the challenges facing the legislature as it performs the once-a-decade remap of House and Senate district boundaries. The map lays the groundwork for political control of the General Assembly and policies it approves for the next 10 years.

Democratic mapmakers are trying to draw a House plan that ensures their majority while avoiding what the courts call racial gerrymandering.

A series of U.S. Supreme Court cases involving North Carolina during the 1980s and '90s said race must play a role in redistricting but not be the predominant factor in creating a district.

"There's a balance in between these two that we must achieve," said Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange, the House's No. 2 leader.

Democratic leaders had created a map that reduced the number of districts with a black population of at least 50 percent from 16 in 1992 to 12.

Fitch admits it's increasingly difficult to retain majority-black districts in some parts of the state. But black populations divided between some districts in other areas could be combined to form new districts favoring black candidates, he said.

Democratic mapmakers say raising Democratic populations in majority-black districts too high lessens Democratic influence in surrounding districts.

Republicans have their own gripes about the Democratic map, which Black projects would elect 69 Democrats and 51 Republicans.

GOP leaders also say the map violates the state and federal constitutions by reducing black influence.

Rep. Art Pope, R-Wake, presented his own proposal Wednesday that would create more black-majority districts.

The speaker said that the rest of 18 black House members back the current Democratic plan and that more majority-black districts could let Republicans get a few more seats.

"We think that our state is better off with a majority of Democratic members," Black said.

The House must approve a congressional redistricting plan before it adjourns for the year. Some action also is expected on a lottery referendum proposal, of which Fitch is a longtime supporter.

Black said he's talked about the lottery in discussions with Fitch but the speaker doesn't want any action on a lottery bill before redistricting is completed.

Associated Press
Redistricting Trial Scheduled Next Year; Republicans, Democrats disagree about timing of case just before an election
September 29, 2001

A lawsuit over the redrawing of legislative and congressional district lines may end up in federal court in early January.

Republicans and Democrats are in disagreement about the timing, however.

Republican leaders say they are willing to accept the date, which is just 60 days before the scheduled two-week filing period for candidates opens. Democrats say they do not think it would allow adequate preparation time.

Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges vetoed a redistricting plan passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Democrats, including the governor, said Republicans illegally used race as a deciding factor in drawing district lines. Republicans said their plan accurately reflected population growth and changes.

Federal judges requested that the parties involved meet and mutually agree on a trial date but recommended "on or about" Jan. 7. Motions would be filed by Oct. 26. The case will be heard before a three-judge panel in Columbia.

State Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Columbia, chairman of the committee that drew the House plan, said he supports the January date. He said the governor wants to delay the gubernatorial primary because it would force the seven GOP candidates to spend more money and give them less time to challenge the incumbent governor.

Kevin Geddings, Hodges' political strategist, said Democrats are not concerned about pushing back the primary. "In reality, the number one priority is to make sure we have fair representation," he said. "Obviously, what best serves that is ensuring that the Democratic side is well prepared for court.

"People can be as cynical about that as they want to be."

Filing for the 2002 races is set for late March with the primary on June 13.

Associated Press
North Carolina Dems threaten GOP in redistricting
September 3, 2001

With redistricting looming on the horizon, North Carolina Democrats are hoping to capture a majority of the state's congressional districts for the first time in nearly a decade.

Democratic party officials and leaders in the General Assembly aim to redraw North Carolina's congressional boundaries to help give Democrats control of seven of the state's 12--soon to be 13--congressional districts. Democrats currently hold five of those districts.

"The General Assembly will pass a map that is essentially a 7-Democrat, 5-Republican and 1-competitive (district),'' said Scott Falmlen, executive director of the state Democratic Party. "That's one of the benefits of having a majority in the Legislature.''

Sen. Brad Miller, a Wake County Democrat who chairs the congressional redistricting committee, said he has drawn as many as 30 different maps for congressional districts, "most of which have seven Democratic districts.''

"There will still be a ballot box,'' he said. "We cannot, by a legislative plan, decide who represents a district.''

The boundaries of a district, however, can play a significant role in determining whether it's packed with voters who historically have supported one party or the other.

Political control of a district would seem to hinge on which party has the greater number of registered voters. But voting patterns are a much more reliable indicator of which party has a better chance of winning a district, said Gary Bartlett, executive director at the state board of elections. Map drawers pay special attention to the unaffiliated, or swing, voters.

Democratic state legislators who are drawing the new congressional boundaries have scrutinized the results from presidential, U.S. Senate and U.S. House races to help draw the boundaries.

The General Assembly redraws the boundaries for the state's congressional, state House and state Senate districts after each decade's census so that each district has a roughly equal number of residents. Those numbers shift out of balance over the years as communities grow and populations shift.

Next year, North Carolina gains a 13th district because of the state's rapid population growth.

The Democrats' plan to regain a majority marks a shift from how they approached redistricting several months ago, said Rep. Ed McMahan, R-Mecklenburg and co-chairman of the congressional redistricting committee.

Earlier, McMahan said, he and Miller had discussed drawing new lines that would keep the 7-to-5 Republican advantage but let Democrats draw the new 13th district. Now that cooperative approach seems to have dissipated, he said.

"I do sense a different attitude (among Democrats) in discussing it today than I did in the spring,'' McMahan said.

Miller agrees with McMahan's recollection of their earlier conversation, but added, "I don't think we ever shook hands and said, 'Deal.'''

The Democratic strategy may still run into trouble in the state House, where Democrats hold only a four-seat majority. House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, appointed equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans on the redistricting committees in an effort to show he wanted a bipartisan effort. He also made that commitment as part of a deal to win re-election as speaker.

The General Assembly won't tackle redistricting until the state budget is settled, which is a few weeks away. Completion and passage of a new congressional map is so far off that state officials are considering pushing back the January filing deadline for candidates and possibly delaying next year's primary election.

The Washington Post
Editorial: Slapstick With Maps

David S. Broder
April 25, 2001

The redistricting season got off to a splendid start last week and promises to bring as much amusement to Washington as the new Mel Brooks musical, "The Producers," apparently will deliver on Broadway. Our political slapstick promises mind-reading, side-switching Supreme Court justices, feuding politicians and enough hypocrisy to choke a rhinoceros. Every 10 years, when the results of the latest census are reported, seats in city councils, state legislative chambers and the House of Representatives have to be redistributed to keep the districts as equal in population as possible.

Theoretically, that mandate could be accomplished by taking a cookie-cutter to the map and blocking out squares of varying size, each with the same number of citizens. That ain't the way it happens. Instead, the legislatures (which perform this artistry except in a few fun-killing states where the work is assigned to nonpartisan commissions) take cognizance of such above-board considerations as traditional political and geographic boundaries. But they give even greater weight to such urgent if unmentionable goals as protecting their friends, discomfiting their opponents and drawing favorable districts for themselves. After the legislatures do their worst, someone is sure to challenge the resulting map in court -- and then the fun begins.

Judges, it seems, are frustrated cartographers, and their inclination to seize the pencil and eraser is almost literally irresistible. A real cartographer, Syracuse University geography professor Mark Monmonier, explains what happens, in a delightful new book titled "Bushmanders and Bullwinkles," which he describes as "an examination of how legislators, redistricting officials and constitutional lawyers use maps as both tools and weapons." Along the way, he touches several times on the relatively new role of judges as map-makers. Too late for Monmonier's book, but just in time to mark the start of another banner season of judicially supervised redistricting, the Supreme Court last week delivered a decision upholding the constitutionality of North Carolina's 12th Congressional District.

Created 10 years ago by the North Carolina legislature with the clear goal of ending the all-white history of the 12-member congressional delegation from a state that is 22 percent black, it has been held since 1992 by African American Democratic Rep. Melvin Watt. But it has rarely had the same boundaries two elections in a row. A series of court cases and legislative responses has transformed it from a long and skinny district picking up black enclaves from Durham to Charlotte into a shorter, fatter (and less African American) district running from Charlotte to Winston-Salem. White plaintiffs have taken the case to the Supreme Court four separate times, with a record of one win, one loss and two ties (remands to lower courts requesting further clarification).

The issue each time has been whether the legislators who drew the 12th District had made its racial composition the "predominant factor" in their craftsmanship, thereby violating a constitutional prohibition against segregating people on the basis of race. Determining the answer involved a painstaking review of the arguments -- explicit and implicit -- that went into its formation and the raw materials that the legislators in Raleigh used in constructing it. At times, it came awfully close to judicial mind-reading. What made the case so vexing was the simple fact that most African American voters mark their ballots for Democrats. If the legislators were trying to draw a safely Democratic district, it would be okay -- assuming it met the other tests the courts usually apply. But if their goal was mainly to draw a safely black district, that would be a no-no.

When the Supreme Court looked at the first version of District 12, the justices concluded it was racial gerrymandering, and threw it out. By a 5 to 4 decision. When they looked at the latest version, just last week, it looked like good old-fashioned political gerrymandering and they said it could stand. Again, by a 5 to 4 decision. The swing vote was that of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has occupied that role so often on closely contested redistricting cases that she has become the virtual Czarina of Remaps, a k a She Who Must Be Satisfied. Politicians and their consultants pore over every word O'Connor has uttered on this subject, trying to assure themselves that they have plausible arguments to offer her when the inevitable moment arrives and they are trying to defend their maps in the Supreme Court. O'Connor reigns supreme. And when she retires, Mel Brooks would be the logical successor.

The New York Times
The Court Finds Room for Racial Candor
Pamela S. Karlan
April 23, 2001

The primary vice of the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore was the way the court used the equal protection clause to shut down the political process. The cardinal virtue of last week's decision in Easley v. Cromartie was the way the court interpreted the equal protection clause to keep the political process open. More broadly, the court's decision offers a hopeful sign about how it may approach affirmative action. The Easley case concerned the constitutionality of North Carolina's 12th Congressional district.

When North Carolina redrew its Congressional districts after the 1990 census, it purposely created two majority-black districts. As a result, North Carolina elected a racially integrated Congressional delegation for the first time in the 20th century. But five white voters attacked the state's plan because it was not constructed in a colorblind way. In 1993, a bitterly divided Supreme Court allowed their lawsuit to proceed. Over the next seven years, the court issued a series of decisions on race and redistricting, including several involving North Carolina, that generated far more heat than light.

The court held that race could not be the predominant factor in how a state drew political districts. Yet states were allowed to draw districts with black or Latino majorities when these districts reflected real communities that shared common political interests. Indeed, states were required to take race into account when that was necessary to comply with the Voting Rights Act's prohibition against redistricting plans that dilute minority voting strength. These conflicting principles have made it impossible for state officials to know precisely how to weigh race among the many other factors that go into redistricting decisions, like the district's shape, respect for city and county boundaries, protection of incumbent legislators, and partisanship.

The court's decision to uphold North Carolina's revised plan does not resolve this tension. Still, the ruling says two important things about what is likely to happen on race-related cases. First, federal courts, including the Supreme Court, will remain intimately involved in redistricting decisions. In particular, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was the swing vote in this case, will remain the final arbiter of when race-conscious districting is constitutional. Second, the tone of the Easley opinion reflects an intriguing shift in the court's attitude toward the role of race in the political realm.

The opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer emphasized that lower courts should be extremely cautious in overturning the results of the political process of redistricting. And it recognized that when, as was true in North Carolina, blacks vote in near-monolithic numbers for Democratic candidates while a majority of white voters prefer Republicans, placing black voters together is acceptable if it reflects normal partisan politics. The court's reasoning may go beyond redistricting. For the first time, five justices on the current Supreme Court have joined an opinion that upholds a governmental decision that was based in part on racial considerations.

The court recognized that racial identification can be closely linked with voting behavior. To require that map makers completely ignore race would make districts less representative of a minority community's interests, and therefore less broadly democratic. If the court is now willing to let North Carolina take race into account in allocating political power, then it makes sense to take a similar tack on higher education. There, too, allowing race to be one factor among many can help expand democracy -- by integrating elite institutions. If a state can candidly admit that racial diversity is important in its Congressional delegation, as the court recognizes, then it should be no less so at institutions that educate the next generation of political leaders.

 


 
Los Angeles Times
Justices back race-based redistricting
David G. Savage
April 19, 2001
 
 Just in time for the season of political redistricting, the Supreme Court on Wednesday gave states more leeway in creating electoral districts that favor blacks, Latinos and other minorities. The 5-4 ruling steps back from a series of recent rulings that condemned "racial gerrymandering" in the South. While the Constitution usually bars the government from making decisions based on race, states can make decisions for partisan political reasons, the justices said Wednesday. And since African Americans tend to vote Democratic, states may shift African American voters to one district to create a Democratic stronghold, they added.
 
The resulting mostly black district can be defended as "political rather than racial," said Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and therefore would not run afoul of the law. It is unclear whether Democrats or Republicans will benefit from Wednesday's ruling. On Capitol Hill, strategists for both parties saw an advantage. Democrats said the ruling would allow them to seek greater representation for minorities, while some Republicans said the GOP would gain if Democrats insist on packing a state's minority voters into a few districts. The race-based districts drawn after the 1990 census have garnered mixed reviews from political and legal analysts. In the 1992 election, 39 African Americans were elected to Congress, up from 17 a decade earlier.
 
"We succeeded in creating a cadre of black elected officials, which was missing for most of the 20th century," said Columbia University law professor Samuel Issacharoff, a voting rights expert. "At the same time, it has increased the polarization in Congress," because districts in the South were drawn to favor either liberal black Democrats or conservative white Republicans. Court Had Voided Redrawn District Wednesday's ruling upheld as constitutional the North Carolina district that has been the focus of much of the litigation over the last decade. The 12th District was drawn, and then redrawn, to favor a black Democrat, Rep. Mel Watt. Five years ago, the court struck it down as a classic example of a racial gerrymander.
 
 A majority of the district's voters were black, but this was accomplished by linking mostly black neighborhoods in Durham, Greensboro and Charlotte. As a result, Watt's district stretched 160 miles down the center of the state but sometimes was only as wide as Interstate 85. The state Legislature redrew it in 1997 to make it more compact. Currently, 46% of its voters--less than a majority--are black. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who voted earlier to strike down the district, switched sides Wednesday and joined the liberal coalition that upheld it. "This is very good news for state legislatures as they begin the complex process of redistricting," said former U.S. Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, who defended his home state of North Carolina in the case.
 
"They now have considerably more breathing room. "If the decision had gone the other way, states would have had to reduce the number of minority districts to avoid being sued," said Dellinger, now a lawyer in the Washington office of the Los Angeles law firm O'Melveny & Myers. Wednesday's ruling applies to all electoral districts, including state and local governing boards. The decision is expected to have much less practical impact in California than in the South, with its long history of political discrimination in elections. "In California you have whites voting for Asians, whites voting for Latinos, whites voting for blacks," said Tony Quinn, a Republican reapportionment expert. "We've got plenty of evidence of people getting elected here without the necessity of having overwhelmingly racially drawn districts." Southern California has several congressional districts in which members of minority groups constitute a voting majority, but each of them was drawn to be reasonably compact, and they have not been subject to challenge.
 
Litigation under federal anti-discrimination laws has played a larger role on the local level, however. Gloria Molina, for example, was elected the first Latina member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors a decade ago after a federal judge found that the county's election boundaries had been drawn to split the Latino population. New census numbers invariably set off an intense, behind-the-scenes struggle for political power. State legislatures are already working to adjust their districts according to recently released figures from the 2000 census. Because populations shift, most states are obliged to redraw their electoral boundaries.
 
Under the Supreme Court's "one person, one vote" principle, the districts must be roughly equal in population. As long as that condition is met, the states have been free to draw the boundaries that determine which voters go in which districts. And political power often turns on how those districts are drawn. Over the last two decades, the issue of race has taken on a greater role. When blacks and Latinos are in the minority, they cannot win an election when voters cast their ballots along racial lines. North Carolina serves as an illustration.
 
Though nearly 1 in 4 of its residents is black, the Tarheel State sent 12 white representatives to Congress for more than a century, but Congress triggered a change with the Voting Rights Act of 1982. It encouraged states, where possible, to create districts that would elect minorities. These voters, when they were clustered in sufficient numbers, had a right to elect representatives of their choice, the new law said. Moreover, states could be sued if they failed to create districts that better represented these minority voters. The first Bush administration also pressed the Southern states to create black-majority districts after the 1990 census. North Carolina created two black-majority districts among its 12 districts. Georgia created three among its 10 districts. But in 1993, the Supreme Court switched directions.
 
On a 5-4 vote, with O'Connor speaking for the majority, the justices condemned race-based districts as a type of "segregation" that "bears an uncomfortable resemblance to political apartheid." Her opinion characterized race-based districting as a kind of political affirmative action that becomes unconstitutional if it goes too far. Ever since then, the justices have struggled to say how much use of race in redistricting is too much. O'Connor said nothing Wednesday, but her vote tipped the majority to the liberal side. Breyer's opinion did not set broad rules but rather reanalyzed the facts in the North Carolina case to show that partisanship, not race, mostly explained how Watt's district was redrawn.
 
In 1997, the North Carolina Legislature met in a special session to redraw the boundaries. At the outset, legislative leaders said they wanted to maintain the current political balance in the state's congressional delegation: six Republicans and six Democrats. They said they shifted African American voters into Watt's district because they are reliably Democrats. Breyer's opinion stressed two other points. White voters who are challenging a district must show how the "Legislature could have achieved its legitimate political objectives" in another way. In this instance, how could the Legislature have created a safe Democratic district in central North Carolina except by including as many black voters as possible? Second, Breyer said that judges should be reluctant to second-guess state legislators on these intensely political matters.
 
"Caution is especially appropriate in this case, where the state has articulated a legitimate political reason for its districting decision, and the voting population is one in which race and political affiliation are highly correlated," Breyer said. The long-running North Carolina case has been driven by Duke University law professor Robinson O. Everett. Since 1992, he has enlisted some local white voters as plaintiffs to challenge the black-majority districts as unconstitutional. The lawsuits have split a special U.S. District Court panel.
 
Chief Judge Terrence W. Boyle, a protege of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), agreed with the white challengers last year and called Watt's district "race driven."
He was joined by another Republican-appointed judge, while a Democratic appointee dissented. Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt appealed the 2-1 decision to the high court, arguing that the Legislature had done its duty in redrawing the district lines. The justices agreed with him Wednesday in Hunt vs. Cromartie, 99-1864. Besides O'Connor, Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Breyer's opinion. The conservative dissenters said the court should have deferred to the district judges and struck down the district again. Usually, the conservative justices argue for deferring to elected state legislators, but not in this instance. "Racial gerrymandering offends the Constitution whether the motivation is malicious or benign," said Justice Clarence Thomas in dissent. He was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy.
 

 
Capitol Letter
Census numbers will reflect good, bad for North Carolina
Scott Mooneyham
~ December 30, 2000
 
The first numbers released from the 2000 Census contained a welcome surprise for North Carolina, a one-seat gain in the state's representation in Congress. They also showed a staggering 21.4 percent increase in the state's population over the past decade, well above the 15 percent growth estimate released last year. But state lawmakers know that good news will come hand-in-hand with bad as the Census Bureau releases increasingly refined information about North Carolina's population growth in the 1990s. In particular, the data will present in detail the growing disparity between the booming Piedmont and the rural East. The numbers released last week show the state's population grew by more than 1.4 million over the past decade, to 8,049,313.
 
State officials already know that much of that growth has taken place in the state's urban areas, around Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, and the thriving beach communities along the coast. The Office of State Planning estimates that about two-thirds of that growth has come from new residents moving into the state. But officials also estimate that eight rural counties in the eastern part of the state have lost population. Other eastern counties have seen little growth. Senate leader Marc Basnight said the overall growth numbers clearly show that people are attracted to the state's thriving economy, climate and beauty. ``It's a positive, for growth like this. There are jobs for people here,'' Basnight said But he and other lawmakers also are aware that the growing disparity between populous Piedmont communities and rural areas pose significant problems, economic, social and political.
 
``Now we have to create prosperity in pockets other than the urban areas and coastal communities and mountain tourism areas. That's our challenge,'' Basnight said. It may be an increasingly difficult challenge to meet. The problems faced by rural communities that are losing population often tend to compound each other. For example, many of those leaving rural counties are among the best educated. But without a quality work force, employers aren't likely to bring high-paying, high-tech jobs there. And as textile plants and other traditional manufacturing jobs disappear, the communities' property tax base vanishes with them. Meanwhile, rural eastern counties face the prospect of losing political clout as lawmakers redraw legislative districts later this year using the new data.
 
The growing population in urban areas of the Piedmont essentially requires lawmakers to create smaller geographic districts in growth areas and larger geographic districts in the rural east. The end result will be larger areas of the east represented by fewer legislators in Raleigh. Lawmakers won't be grappling with the same problem when it comes to redrawing congressional districts, thanks to the increase from 12 to 13 U.S. House seats. Both the 1st District, represented by Democrat Eva Clayton, and the 3rd District, represented by Republican Walter Jones Jr., likely would have looked significantly different without the addition of another district. The size of Clayton's district, in particular, would have needed to be expanded because of the stagnant population in the region. The change could have easily diluted minority voter strength in the majority-minority district.
 
Thad Beyle, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the additional district could actually help to ease partisan tensions as lawmakers put together a redistricting plan. That's because the new district should make it easier to protect the incumbents' interests, just as it did when a new district was added following the 1990 census. ``Initially, that (the 12th District) eased the problems of Democrats vs. Republicans,'' Beyle said.
 

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