Carolina's Redistricting News
Charlotte Observer: "Senate to Look Again at
District Map." November 20, 2001
The state Senate will pursue its own congressional redistricting plan, putting away for the time being a House map approved in that chamber last week.
Sen. Brad Miller, D-Wake, the head of the Senate committee overseeing congressional redistricting, said a Senate map more favorable to Democrats than the House version would be unveiled today.
The Senate might still take up the House proposal if its plan runs into trouble once it moves over to the House, Miller said.
"We have (voting) buttons, too. We got elected, too. We should have a say as well," Miller said.
State lawmakers are making once-a-decade changes in congressional districts to correspond to population shifts reflected in new U.S. Census data.
The changes include a new 13th congressional district, awarded to North Carolina because of population growth. Democrats, who control both the state House and Senate, are trying to redraw districts to help their party.
Republicans now hold a 7-5 advantage in the U.S. House delegation elected from North Carolina.
Congressional redistricting is the last major piece of business before the General Assembly in the longest legislative session in state history. Legislative leaders had predicted the session -- complicated by redistricting, a governmental financial crisis and tax-hike debate - might be completed by the end of next week.
That looks highly unlikely now.
Rep. Ed McMahan, R-Mecklenburg, pointed out that the House plan was put together with a careful coalition of Democrats and Republicans. Pushing a Senate plan more favorable to Democrats could "unravel the coalition that has been formed. It would create a lot of gridlock and extend the session," McMahan said.
Miller, though, said he believed the Senate could make changes that might gain support of a majority in the House and still adjourn next week.
Miller predicted a few changes to the 8th District and 11th District, represented by Republican U.S. Reps. Robin Hayes and Charles Taylor, respectively.
Hayes' district already has a majority of Democrats and is considered a swing district both in its present form and under the House plan. In Taylor's district, Republicans and unaffiliated voters outnumber Democrats.
An early House map put more Democrats in Hayes' district and made Taylor's a majority Democratic one. Democrats, who narrowly control the House 62-58, eventually ditched that proposal and turned to a handful of Republicans to put together a deal that would pass both houses.
Senate Democrats are expected to tinker with Taylor's district again.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans put forward a congressional district plan that was drawn with the help of students from Odell Elementary in Cabarrus County.
Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, said the plan was drawn by the students in a way to minimize district boundaries and keep counties whole. Incumbency, party affiliation and race were not considered, he said.
The plan would give Democrats a majority of voters in only six of the 13 districts, compared to seven under the House plan.
Although the plan has no real chance of passing, Republicans were clearly trying to make a philosophical point in the messy business of redistricting.
The North Carolina Senate will take up a compromise redistricting map this week that protects every incumbent House Member except sophomore Rep. Robin Hayes (R).
Pressured by GOP critics who said their first map would not withstand legal scrutiny, Democrats in the state House approved a plan last Wednesday that does not split as many counties as the earlier plan and does not target GOP Rep. Charles Taylor.
In the latest loss for African-American groups trying to increase their ranks on Capitol Hill, state lawmakers rejected a move to draw a new district with a sizable black population. North Carolina currently has two black House Members. The Tar Heel State gained one seat in reapportionment.
The state House map could provide Democrats with seven of the state's 13 new seats, but only if they can oust Hayes. Republicans currently have a 7-5 edge in the state's 12-seat delegation.
Even though he could still face a tough race next year, Hayes prefers the state House map to one unveiled earlier this month by Democrats, who tried to throw thousands of liberal Charlotte voters into Hayes' rural, conservative district.
The compromise map slightly increases the Democratic performance from Hayes' current district, but not as significantly as the earlier map. Gov. Mike Easley (D), for example, took 51 percent last year in Hayes' current district, according to the state Legislature. Easley would have received 55 percent in the first map, but would draw 53 percent under the compromise map approved last week.
The compromise plan also boosts GOP Reps. Richard Burr and Sue Myrick by enhancing Republican performance in their districts. The map includes a new 13th district, a Democratic seat that would stretch from Raleigh to Greensboro. State Sen. Brad Miller (D), chairman of that state Senate redistricting committee, is expected to run there.The new 13th would have a black population of 27 percent under the state House map.
The state House gave its final approval today to a congressional district plan for the next decade designed to protect incumbents but may make one Republican congressman vulnerable.
In a second showing of bipartisanship in as many days, some Republicans joined most Democrats in voting for a compromise plan that is projected to give both parties six seats in a 13-member delegation. The bill now goes to the Senate.
The other seat, Rep. Robin Hayes' 8th District, became slightly more Democratic, but both sides claim they can win the seat and take a 7-6 majority.
The House approved the plan by a vote of 69-44 after lawmakers rejected an alternative map that would have drawn a district to give North Carolina a good chance to elect a third black member to Congress. That debate centered on constitutional and partisan issues, setting up a potential legal challenge following a decade of litigation on the current boundaries.
People of both parties differed over the level of security in the political future of the 8th District.
"This is not a map I would have drawn," said Scott Falmlen, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party. "I still think it's a winnable district for us."
Rep. Ed McMahan, the Republican's congressional mapmaker, said the House map gets what the GOP wanted all along -- protection of its seven incumbents, including Hayes.
"We thought it was fair and equitable for both sides," said McMahan, R-Mecklenburg.
A 21 percent population increase during the 1990s gave North Carolina a new 13th seat. The House map would stretch the 13th from Raleigh to Greensboro, through four counties on the Virginia border and parts of Burlington. That district is projected to favor a Democratic candidate.
The Senate, where Democrats control 35 of the 50 seats, could make changes next week to reflect the original House Democratic plan. Those boundaries were designed to take Hayes' but also the one held by GOP Rep. Charles Taylor in the 11th district.
The House then would have to decide whether to accept the Senate changes or work out a compromise, further delaying a final map in this record-long session.
The amendment defeated would have extended the 13th from Greensboro east in to parts of Durham, Raleigh and Wilson.
Rep. Toby Fitch, the amendment's sponsor, said the map would secure a 7-6 Democratic majority more likely while creating a 13th with a black population of 40 percent. The 13th approved Thursday has a black population of 27 percent.
But state House Democratic leaders fear the plan could hurt Democratic Reps. Bob Etheridge in the 2nd District and David Price of the 4th District.
The seats "would swing back and forth between the parties," said Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange. "I don't buy the idea that this map at all protects those two persons."
Hackney also said the map raises questions about whether Fitch's 13th District would be found unlawful.
North Carolina's 1st and 12th congressional districts, represented by black Democrats, were scrutinized by the U.S. Supreme Court during the 1990s over racial gerrymandering.
Map opponents say it violates the Voting Rights Act because it fragments the black population in the eastern Piedmont between the districts held by white Democrats. An amendment supporter said the plan is balanced for all groups.
"It's fair to Democrats. It's fair to Republicans. It's particularly fair to the minority population of this state who will have the opportunity to have the choice of their own," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham.
The General Assembly also gave final legislative approval Thursday to delay the start of filing period until Feb. 18 and push it back permanently to February beginning in 2003.
Lawsuits and examination of the maps by the U.S. Justice Department likely wouldn't be completed in time for the original filing date of Jan. 7. That bill now goes to Gov. Mike Easley for his signature.
The Democrats' narrow four-seat majority and equal party representation on the House Congressional Redistricting Committee forced the Democrats' hand to reach a compromise. A handful of black Democrats unhappy with minority representation also complicated matters.
McMahan and his Democratic counterpart agreed to changes in a Democratic-penned plan that would better protect Hayes and Taylor.
A look at the congressional redistricting plan given final House approval on Thursday by a vote of 69-44:
Number of seats: 13, with each member representing as close to 619,178 residents as possible.
Open seat: The new 13th district, which stretches from Raleigh to Greensboro by going through four Virginia border counties and parts of Burlington. Both parties say the district favors a Democrat.
Metropolitan areas: Mecklenburg, Guilford, Cumberland and Wake counties each would have three representatives; Forsyth and Pitt would have two; Buncombe, New Hanover and Durham would have one.
Party control: Republicans now have a 7-5 advantage in the congressional delegation. Members of both parties say the 13-district plan would give their respective sides a 7-6 advantage. At issue is whether Democrats have a better chance of taking the 8th District seat now held by GOP Rep. Robin Hayes.
Incumbents: Save for Hayes, the remaining 11 incumbents keep districts that will make it difficult for the other party's candidate to win.
Minority representation: The 1st District represented by Eva Clayton would remain a majority-black district with a black population of 50.7 percent, compared to 50.5 percent. The 12th District represented by Mel Watt would have a black population of 45 percent compared to the current 44.5 percent.
Thursday's vote: Fourteen Republicans joined 55 Democrats in approving the map. Five black Democrats and 39 Republicans voted against the plan. An amendment that would have increased the minority population in the proposed 13th from 28 percent to 40 percent failed by a vote of 45-68.
What's next: The map now goes to the Senate, where Democrats with a larger majority than colleagues in the House could alter the plan to improve Democratic performance, particularly in the 8th and maybe the 11th. A Senate Redistricting Committee meeting is set for next week. The map approved by both chambers will be sent to the U.S. Justice Department for preclearance to ensure it meets the Voting Rights Act before it can be used for the 2002 elections.
Members of the N.C. House broke from their session-long partisan bickering Wednesday just enough to tentatively pass new congressional districts, including a 13th seat that stretches from Raleigh to Greensboro.
A coalition of Democrats and more than a dozen Republicans approved the lines 71-41. But lawmakers warned that the districts might not survive U.S. Department of Justice scrutiny or an expected legal challenge from GOP activists.
Republicans argue that despite several last-minute changes, the districts still favor Democrats and endanger GOP incumbents - most notably Rep. Robin Hayes.
Black Democrats, who've tested Speaker Jim Black's control since the start of this now record-long session, argued that the new 13th district should benefit black candidates.
The 13th would run from Guilford to Wake County and includes part of Alamance County and four counties on the Virginia border. House redistricting leaders rejected two proposals - one from the GOP, another from unhappy Democrats - to bump the 13th's black population above 40percent.
Rep. Toby Fitch, D-Wilson, predicted lawmakers would have to redraw the 13th.
"The (redistricting) chairmen have done a good job. They at least got us to a position where we may finally be able to get out of here. But they also got us to a position where we shall return - and I don't mean like MacArthur," said Fitch, a leader among the dissident Democrats.
The new district lines, which need one final vote in the House and Senate approval before they go to the Justice Department, represent a political compromise that benefits incumbents.
Earlier versions had put more Democrats in the districts of Republican Reps. Robin Hayes, R-8th of Concord, and Charles Taylor, R-11th of Brevard. The final version completely restores the 11th's current boundaries and adds parts of Cabarrus, Union and Stanly counties back to Hayes' seat.
Hayes' district also would include a portion of east-central Mecklenburg County. His current district stops at the eastern Mecklenburg County line.
Other than the 8th, which statistics suggest is up for grabs, the other redrawn district lines favor the party that already holds them. Counting Hayes' seat, Republicans hold seven of North Carolina's 12 Congressional seats.
States must draw new congressional and legislative districts every 10 years, in response to population changes identified by the U.S. Census. Thanks to population growth, North Carolina won a 13th congressional seat.
Republicans have already filed a lawsuit challenging new N.C. General Assembly lines. They're expected to file a similar suit challenging the new congressional map. The squabble over redistricting could affect next year's elections, perhaps pushing back January filing and party primaries now scheduled for May.
Mountain residents will continue to be part of the 11th Congressional District if state House lawmakers adopt a redistricting map today that preserves the geographic boundaries of the western region.
The compromise cleared two legislative hurdles on Wednesday, culminating in a 71-to-41 vote along partisan lines to support the plan. A final vote is scheduled for today. African-American and GOP lawmakers are expected to introduce amendments today that would create a new 13th District that gives racial minorities in that district significant political influence at the polls.
The original Democratic proposal would have affected voters in McDowell, most of Henderson, southern Buncombe, northern Transylvania, southern Haywood, northern Polk and western Rutherford counties. The original map also pulled in Democratic voters from Cleveland and Gaston counties. The compromise map leaves the western region intact, with the exception of five precincts in Rutherford County.
"With different needs for each district, combining the foothills and the mountains would be a political nightmare," said Brandon Randolph, 18, a student at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. "This divide would have affected the people, jobs, industry and economic strength of the district and also the state."
A bipartisan legislative coalition from Buncombe County, including Republican state Rep. Wilma Sherrill and Democrats Rep. Martin Nesbitt and Sen. Steve Metcalf worked together to ensure a favorable outcome for the west.
"From the first moment I saw the original congressional redistricting proposal I worked on amendments to change the 11th District," Sherrill said. "It was absurd. It completely disenfranchised the people in the western part of the state."
Partisan politics guided the creation of the original Democratic proposal. House Democratic leaders said they changed the western district to increase the likelihood that someone from their party could be elected to the seat, now held by U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor, R-Brevard. Taylor issued a press release today championing the House compromise.
"The N.C. House of Representatives today heeded the voice of the people, who rose in a bipartisan manner for a congressional district that respects the distinctiveness of WNC and gives fair representation to our region," Taylor said. "We hate to lose any precincts currently in our district, but the map today does so in the most common- sense, non-political manner."
But supporters of the original plan said WNC has a diverse population with common interests. The Democratic plan would have increased the percentage of minority voters in the district from 4.4 to 9.7 percent.
"The interests and concerns they have are the same - taxes, education, veterans affairs - are all the same whether they're in Cleveland County or Haywood County," said Sam Neill, a Hendersonville attorney who lost his bid to capture the 11th District in the 2000 election against Taylor. "A woman looking for equal employment protection in Clay County is the same as a woman who wants equal protection in Asheville."
The compromise map leaves the district essentially Democratic as shown by voting registration - 45.8 percent Democrat, 36.1 percent Republican and 17.9 percent unaffiliated. But the proposal reflects recent voter history in which western voters tend to side with Republicans in statewide races at the polls.
"It's not about Democrats or Republicans," Metcalf said. "The compromise keeps our district intact. It's about the best thing for Western North Carolina."
Contact Fisher at (919) 833-7352 or [email protected]
I attended the Raleigh public hearing on Congressional redistricting and spoke in favor of the McMahan (Republican) plan. I took a somewhat different tack than many of the speakers and I would like to share the thoughts I expressed with you.
I reside in the northern part of Henderson County and am nearly a life-time Republican. I use the adverb "nearly" since I must confess that my first vote cast was for Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1944 election for his fourth term only to march six months later in his funeral procession. I am proud to be an active Republican and at this moment, admit to being a very angry Republican.
From study of the "Wright" plan it appears that Western North Carolina voters are to be punished for having the temerity of heavily supporting the 2000 re-election of Charles Taylor as its representative for North Carolina's 11th Congressional District. We voted in Charles, defying the wishes and enormous purse of the Democratic National Committee, and in the case of Henderson County, specifically preferred him to one of our own residents, Democrat Sam Neill. Henderson County has always supported Charles and would surely do so again in the 2002 election. We remember well the purse power the DNC targeted against Congressmen Taylor and Robert C. "Robin'' Hayes in the 8th Congressional District, yet both persevered and now must be punished for it, since Hayes' new district shows the same distortions as done to Taylor. But the maps show only the cosmetics of the atrocity, the real story lies in comparing party registration numbers between the Republican proposal, "House Congress 13" (McMahan), and the Democrat "Wright" plan.
In "McMahan" Taylor has 36 percent Republican to 48 percent Democrat registry, Hayes 42 percent to 41 percent. In "Wright" Taylor is 32 percent Republican to 51 percent Democrat and Hayes 30 percent to 52 percent.
In both cases given absolutely loyal party votes, neither candidate could win re-election, even if he gained 100 percent of the unaffiliated vote. In short the numbers are rigged in such a fashion that there would appear to be little or no chance for either to win in 2002. But I think you know better than that. In Western North Carolina, Charles Taylor has for many years been elected by a combination of strong Republican, "enlightened" Democrat and conservative unaffiliated voters. I believe we can do it again and given the obvious perfidy of the "Wright" plan we should have a once-in-a-lifetime chance of "enlightened" Democrat to Republican conversion on a really massive scale for the long term.
I believe also that with Wright's help we can convince unaffiliated voters of the inherent foolishness of the "Mugwump" voting posture and of the fundamental superiority of Republican political thinking.
In trying to understand the thinking behind the "Wright" plan one can only conclude that it is driven by some kind of vengeance for making the North Carolina Democratic Party look foolish one more time in the eyes of the Democratic National Committee. After all, the "Wright" plan provides for nine registered Democrat majorities but "McMahan" provides eight, although admittedly by smaller margins. Those wonderful "enlightened" Democrats and unaffiliated have helped us to a seven to five congressional majority before, and Democrats seem hell-bent on using cartography to avoid taking that chance again, particularly knowing the miserable fiscal and political leadership shown by the state's elected Democratic leadership since election in 2000.
Is North Carolina condemned to repeat the 12th Congressional District voter design fiasco forever?
Aren't we tired of litigation costs and the ignominy of having that event used by texts on government as an illustration of gerrymandering as several speakers pointed out? Do the voters really want a North Carolina analogy to Florida's "chad" debacle? To suggest that the speakers may not be indicative of the broad feeling of WNC voters as Committee Co-Chair Wright apparently did to the press is to ignore the six elections of Congressman Taylor by the broad coalition of Republican, Democrat, and unaffiliated voters earlier suggested.
If the McMahan map does not reflect the actual voting wishes, which one would? His? Hardly. Vengeance is not conducive to the kind of issue-oriented debate that the electorate deserves. Neither is anger. Get back on track, Raleigh. This is no way to begin the 2002 election process.
Fielding G. Lucas lives in Hendersonville and is president of the Henderson County Republican Men's Club.
Tar Heel Tussle
Opponents of a Democratic redistricting plan in North Carolina dominated a public hearing Thursday in Raleigh, increasing the likelihood that the state's Democratic-controlled Legislature will be forced to amend the plan before it becomes law.
GOP Reps. Charles Taylor and Robin Hayes, who face the most threatening changes under the Democrats' plan, mobilized a sizable contingent of supporters to attend the hearing in protest. Their supporters, some of whom traveled to Raleigh from the far western reaches of the state, were specifically upset that a large number of counties would be divided between districts under the plan.
"It almost seems to me like cheating to divide all those counties," Jeff Dreibus, a McDowell County resident, told state legislators at the hearing, according to the Raleigh News and Observer. "I feel like if you need to cheat to win, you ought not to be in the game."
"You're changing lines because you can't get your friends and compatriots elected," Janice Poteat, also of McDowell County, said at the hearing. "I say shame on you if you vote for the [Democratic] plan."
A federal review of North Carolina's new political districts - complicated by anthrax fears in Washington - could delay next year's candidate filings and primary elections by months.
"It's kind of unlikely that we'll have a May primary," says Senate redistricting Chairman Brad Miller, D-Wake.
A delay - possibly to the fall - would affect candidates for every office from county commissioners to the U.S. Senate. For some, it would shorten the time to raise money, plan strategy and build name recognition for November's election.
The problem stems from the legislature's procrastination in passing redistricting plans and their required approval by the U.S. Justice Department.
Beleaguered most of the year by budget woes, the General Assembly began actively redistricting just weeks ago. The state Senate plan is done, and final approval of a controversial House plan could come as early as Tuesday. Lawmakers are still debating a congressional plan.
Once approved, the new plans must be submitted for Justice Department review under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The review, designed to assure that the plans safeguard minority voting rights, is expected to take at least 60 days. It could take much longer if the plans are challenged or if changes are ordered.
Complicating matters even more is anthrax anxiety.
Because of fears of the disease, the Justice Department last week issued new guidelines on how states can submit their plans. They say states can't use the postal service or overnight couriers. Instead, it gives a fax number and complex instructions on e-mailing documents.
For states such as North Carolina, the problem is volume.
The state is required to submit not only its final maps but alternate plans, census data and transcripts of public hearings, committee meetings and floor debates. In 1991 the state sent federal officials 20 thick notebooks of redistricting data.
"When you've got to submit 6,000 pages, that's a lot of faxing," Miller says.
Raleigh attorney Michael Crowell - a voting rights expert who helps local governments - told state elections officials that he'd recently sent several redistricting plans to Washington by Federal Express. A week later, they still hadn't been received.
House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, expects the problems to mean delays in the 2002 election process.
"The chances are good that the primary and filing date will be delayed simply because of the logistics," he says. Black adds that a delay would affect all N.C. races, not just those for the General Assembly or Congress.
Miller's committee could approve a measure Tuesday that would give state elections officials discretion to delay next year's month-long filing period, now scheduled to open Jan.7. Lawmakers say filing could be pushed back to March without postponing the May primary. But longer delays would make it impossible to print ballots and make other arrangements required for a May vote.
Jane Gray, Black's general counsel, said that would begin to interfere with the legislature's short session, which starts in May and lasts through much of the summer. Lawmakers facing re-election aren't likely to schedule a primary when they have to be working in Raleigh instead of campaigning back home.
"I don't think there would be a lot of positive feelings about trying to have (a primary) while we're in session," Gray says.
Any delay wouldn't be the first in North Carolina.
Filing in 1992 was delayed five weeks by a Justice Department review. In 1998 a Supreme Court decision on the 12th congressional district delayed congressional primaries until September.
Jim Morrill can be reached at (704) 358-5059 or at [email protected]
Speakers attending a public hearing Thursday on redrawing North Carolina's congressional districts overwhelmingly criticized the Democratic plan released earlier this week.
The plan would break up the 11th District of GOP Rep. Charles Taylor of Transylvania County and add a new district in the fast-growing Raleigh area.
The speakers, some of whom were bused to Raleigh by Taylor's campaign, criticized the new plan, which calls for placing portions of several counties now in the 11th District into the 10th.
"You're changing lines because you can't get your friends and compatriots elected," Janice Poteat of McDowell County said at the hearing that attracted 125 people. "I say shame on you if you vote for the (Democratic) plan."
Following each 10-year U.S. census, state lawmakers must approve new district boundaries for the seats held by members of state delegations to the U.S. House of Representatives. All the districts must be roughly equal in population, forcing shifts in district lines to ensure balance.
The job is further complicated because the 2000 census showed North Carolina's population grew enough to warrant a 13th House seat.
The Democratic plan and a Republican map released last week both anchor the 13th District in Wake County, and both maps seek a majority for their respective parties. Republicans currently have a 7-5 advantage.
But public speakers in the Legislative Building auditorium urged lawmakers to take communities into account.
Speakers from Taylor's region said the 11th District in the Democratic plan disintegrates a unified voice for the mountains. The current 11th is composed of 15 complete mountain counties.
The map authored by Rep. Thomas Wright, D-New Hanover, divides Taylor's home county with a proposed 10th District. An altered 10th district would stretch more than 200 miles, from mountainous Cherokee County in the state's far western edge to Gastonia in the Piedmont.
People in Gastonia "have different issues than we have in the mountains," said Elsie Richardson of McDowell County.
"I am a Democrat who is outraged by this redistricting," said John Young, a Taylor supporter from Yancey County.
Anson County commissioner Stephen Lear didn't care for how the 8th District was treated in either map. He said the Democratic plan brings Charlotte into a district with his rural county; the GOP map puts Anson in a district with Wilmington.
State Rep. Art Pope, R-Wake, a plaintiff in the original lawsuit challenging the 12th district now represented by Mel Watt, D-N.C. of Charlotte, presented a plan that would create three districts where blacks are the largest racial group. Court challenges to the 12th district lasted 10 years.
Drawing new congressional districts puts power on display -- the power of the legislature's dominant political party, the power of members of Congress, and the power of the courts.
Who will get the new political power and who won't will be determined over the next few weeks as legislators approve new lines for the state's 13 congressional districts. Ripples from the plan they adopt will be felt for the next 10 years through the Triangle, across the state and in Washington, where Republicans hold a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The House Democrat leading the congressional redistricting effort, state Rep. Thomas Wright of Wilmington, has made it clear that he wants the map to give his party an advantage. "It's a Democratic performing map -- that's what the intent is," Wright said as he introduced the plan to legislators this week.
But the early effort to weaken some Republican incumbents and to create a new district to elect a Democrat will have to survive complaints from the GOP about partisan gerrymandering, criticism from voters and community leaders about district lines that separate "communities of interest," and the scrutiny of the U.S. Justice Department, which must review the plan for compliance with the Voting Rights Act and clear it for use in the 2002 elections.
All those issues were raised Thursday at a public hearing on two proposals for new congressional districts, one backed by state House Democrats, who control the chamber, and the other from House Republicans.
As legislators draw maps with districts that each have about 619,000 people, each party looks for opportunities to win districts now held by the other side. Republicans hold seven of the state's 12 congressional seats, Democrats five. Population growth in the 1990s earned the state an additional U.S. House district.
Republicans complain that the Democrats' map would result in Democrats' dominating the congressional delegation 8-5. Democrats said the Republican map gives the same advantage to the GOP.
The Democratic map changed the outline of the 8th District, which elected Republican Rep. Robin Hayes of Concord, to make the district more likely to elect a Democrat. The Democrats' plan put more of that party's registered voters in the 11th District, where the incumbent is Republican Rep. Charles Taylor of Brevard.
Taylor sent out a message asking people to protest, and his supporters turned out in force at the hearing. They dominated the hearing with objections about a plan they said would disrupt a cohesive, common-sense district.
The parties look for advantages when sketching districts.
For example, in the current plan, Wake County is split between the 4th District, which elected Democrat David Price of Chapel Hill, and the 2nd District, represented by Democrat Bob Etheridge of Lillington.
Etheridge beat a freshman Republican to win the seat in 1996, but the 2nd District is one where Republicans think they could find an opening.
"Even though it's a Democrat district, it's the kind of district that can be won by a Republican in the right year and with the right candidate," said Bill Cobey, the state Republican Party chairman, in an interview.
Democrats contend that the GOP map makes it less likely that the 2nd District will elect a Democrat. "Bobby Etheridge is very vulnerable in that plan," Wright said.
Democrats, meanwhile, talk about their wishes to put the 8th District back in their hands. Longtime Democratic Rep. Bill Hefner represented the district for years, but a Republican, Robin Hayes, won the seat in 1998 when Hefner retired.
"I think there's a longing for that seat to be back in the Democratic column," Scott Falmlen, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said in an interview.
But Republicans said the Democratic map contorts districts in an attempt to weaken Hayes. "He's their target, and they're going after him," Cobey said.
Legislators divide counties to meet the constitutional requirement to draw districts that are as equal in population as possible, but they also do it to achieve political ends. Overall, the Democrats' plan divides 39 counties, nine of them in the 11th District. The current congressional map divides 22 counties.
Three counties -- Mecklenburg, Guilford and Wake -- are each divided among three congressional districts in the Democrats' plan.
Jeff Dreibus of McDowell County thought it was wrong to split so many communities.
"It almost seems to me like cheating to divide all those counties," Dreibus said. "I feel like if you need to cheat to win, you ought not to be in the game."
Anson County Commissioner Stephen Lear said he did not like either the Democratic or the Republican plan. The Democratic map put Anson County in the 8th District with part of Charlotte, while the Republican plan put it in the 7th District with Wilmington.
The largest town in Anson has 5,000 people, Lear said, and the county has little in common with Charlotte or Wilmington.
"If your goal is to create communities of interest, which it should be, it has not been achieved in either of these plans," Lear said.
Any map the General Assembly approves is likely to face a legal challenge. As legislators talk about the new districts, the threat of lawsuits or of the plan's rejection by judges or the Justice Department tempers their every word.
The General Assembly's approval of a congressional map in 1991 touched off a parade of lawsuits and court judgments, and three revisions of the map.
The Justice Department objected to the original 1991 congressional map with its one minority district in the northeast, saying it failed to provide opportunity for minorities in southern and southeastern parts of the state.
The General Assembly drew a second black-majority district, the 12th District, which was the subject of a series of lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision just this year, approved a 12th District as drawn in 1997.
Wright intends for this map to withstand any charge of racial gerrymandering.
"As we talked, all of those things were considered," he said. "That's why the issue of racial gerrymandering is off the table. The proposal as presented will meet the letter of the law."
But one speaker at the public hearing, retired Navy Capt. Vincent Colan from the 11th District, said the Democratic map was a lawsuit magnet.
"There will be lawsuit after lawsuit," Colan said, "to remedy this insult to the people of North Carolina."
Staff writer Lynn Bonner can be reached at 829-4821 or [email protected]
House Republicans suffered a setback this week in North Carolina, where Democrats unveiled a redistricting plan that could threaten two GOP incumbents. But Tar Heel Republicans' hopes of holding retiring Sen. Jesse Helms' (R) seat improved as Elizabeth Dole's (R) top primary rival quit the race.
Democrats, who control the state Legislature and governor's office, released a House map Tuesday that would boost their party's strength in the districts of GOP Reps. Robin Hayes and Charles Taylor.
"It's ugly," said Hayes of the map, which he claimed was designed by the Democratic National Committee. "This is a Washington Democratic map. The folks down the street from [the Capitol] drew this map. It wasn't the folks in Raleigh who ran the show."
Confident that their map would be enacted, Democrats openly acknowledged their motivation was partisanship. "I'm a Democrat, and I'm drawing a Democratic majority map here," said state Rep. Thomas Wright, co-chairman of the state House redistricting committee. "This is a map I'd like to see favor the Democrats."
Meanwhile, Richard Vinroot (R), a former Charlotte mayor whose brief Senate bid sought to pose a conservative alternative to Dole's more moderate stands on social issues, bowed out Tuesday and endorsed his former primary rival.
"I've never quit anything in my life, but I also am a realist," Vinroot, who trailed Dole by a 5-1 margin in a poll she released last week, said in an interview yesterday. "She's got a lot of assets right now. Very high, almost unprecedented popularity. And to change that, I would have to raise a lot of money and take some shots at her that would have been hard to do given our relationship."
Vinroot, who still owes $75,000 from a 2000 gubernatorial race he lost by 6 points, said Dole has offered to help him retire that debt. But he denied that promises of financial assistance motivated him to endorse Dole. Vinroot made his decision after a phone conversation Saturday with Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Gilmore.
Attorney Jim Snyder (R) is now Dole's only notable primary opponent.
Under the Democratic House map, which differs from a GOPplan released last month, Hayes' 8th district would move into downtown Charlotte and become 28 percent black, up slightly from his current constituency, and 52 percent Democratic. The current 8th is roughly half Democratic in registration as well, but the threat to Hayes is reflected in Democratic performance.
Gov. Mike Easley (D), for example, who took the current 8th with 51 percent last year, would have carried the proposed 8th with 55 percent, according to the state Legislature.
Moreover, "Democrats they've cut out in Cabarrus, Stanly and Union counties are replaced with Democrats who are much less conservative," said Hayes. "Suddenly it becomes a downtown, urbanized district, and it's sort of hard to consistently meet the challenges of your district when there's such a diversity of interests. Someone went to an awful lot of trouble to do it this way for political purposes. ... A lot of folks are very unhappy with it."
Taylor's 11th district, which includes the state's western reaches, would remain largely white but would become 51 percent Democratic, up from 46 percent in its current configuration. Easley, who took 49 percent in the current 11th, would have carried the district with 52 percent under the Democratic plan.
Taylor's seat would gain swaths of the nearby 10th district, held by Rep. Cass Ballenger (R), and Democratic precincts in the 9th district, held by Rep. Sue Myrick (R). Myrick's district would become notably more Republican under the new map, as would the districts of GOP Reps. Howard Coble and Richard Burr.
The proposal also would stretch the state's new 13th district - a Democratic stronghold drawn for a state Senator leading the Legislature's redistricting effort - across the top of the state between Guilford and Wake counties.
State Sen. Brad Miller (D) plans to run in the new district, which would be 54 percent Democratic and 29 percent Republican. Easley would have carried the district with 59 percent. North Carolina, which grew by 23 percent during the 1990s, gained one House seat in reapportionment.
House Republicans, who currently have a 7-5 advantage within the delegation but acknowledge that Democrats could pick up two or three seats under the new plan, started laying the groundwork for a court challenge this week. They noted that several counties are split, meaning districts could lack communities of interest.
"I've always thought that commonality is a necessary ingredient, and I don't like the idea that my whole county is being carved up," said Rep. Howard Coble (R). "Anytime you put a county in more than two districts, you are inviting chaos and confusion to all involved."
Other House Republicans, while voicing discontent with the plan, urged caution.
"The whole thing doesn't make a lot of sense, but I'm keeping my powder dry to see what happens," said Myrick, whose Charlotte-based district actually gains GOP voters. "They always go through several different maps, and they will have to make some changes if they want to get the votes they need."
Republicans found some solace, however, in Vinroot's decision to quit the Senate race, a move that further cements Dole's early status as a frontrunner in both the primary and general elections.
"We're going to work as a team to absolutely ensure that the seat that Jesse Helms holds in the Senate stays in the Republican column," Dole said at a news conference Tuesday at which Vinroot endorsed her.
A former Cabinet secretary and 2000 presidential candidate, Dole has been widely embraced by her party leaders. She is expected to raise at least $1 million by Dec. 31, including a $250,000 haul she collected last week at a fundraiser held at National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters. NRSC Chairman Bill Frist (Tenn.) attended the event, along with Dole's husband, ex-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (Kan.).
Three major Democrats - wealthy investment banker Erskine Bowles, state Rep. Dan Blue and North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall - are seeking their party's nomination. Dole's survey showed her leading all three by wide margins.
Vinroot, an attorney, said his decision to withdraw was based in part on fundraising woes. He noted that he was drawing from several of the same donors as Bowles, a longtime friend and client, and Dole. "In this economy, with a country at war, in a community where one of my friends and former clients is running on the Democratic side and asking our mutual friends for support, there were just a whole lot of people trying to get at the same trough at the same time," said Vinroot. "Two million dollars was not nearly enough unless something happens to [Dole's] balloon, which was rising highly in the sky."
Vinroot acknowledged that he and Dole differ on some issues that might be crucial to GOP primary voters. "She and I have differences. I am more conservative and would like everyone to agree with me on everything," he said. "But she's fine and is a person of integrity and character, and she can win."
In a possible warning to Democrats as they prepare for a general-election race against Dole, Vinroot also voiced frustration about competing against someone whose celebrity status minimized any real discussion of campaign issues.
"The media didn't seem too concerned about issues nor did the voters," he said. "Everywhere we went in the campaign, the cameras would focus on her, and everyone wanted to meet her. It was a frustration."
Western North Carolina residents pleaded with state lawmakers on Thursday to preserve the integrity of their communities when drawing congressional districts at a public hearing on the matter.
Mountain residents were more than half of the 125 citizens who attended the event and overwhelmingly spoke against the proposal. Two Asheville residents spoke in favor of the plan. About 60 of the attendees against the Democrat proposal were bused to Raleigh by Rep. Charles Taylor, according to Will Haynie, Taylor's spokesman.
The House Democrat plan, unveiled on Tuesday, gutted Republican strongholds in the region and placed them into another congressional district that stretches as far north as western Watauga County. Cleveland County and a sliver of Gastonia County would be added to the new 11th district.
Voters in McDowell, southern Buncombe, most of Henderson, northern Transylvania, southern Haywood, northern Polk and western Rutherford counties would be affected by the proposed plan.
"For you to substitute historically overwhelmingly Democratic voting counties into the district is a clear sign that you have not even a single shred of conscience," said John Young of Yancey County and a conservative Democrat. "For you to blaspheme the American system of government with these antics borders on treason."
State lawmakers reconfigure legislative and congressional districts every decade based on updated census data. Redistricting is a largely political chess game where each political party tries to get as many candidates from their party elected to office as possible. Democrats said their plan would give their party an 8-to-5 edge over Republicans in Congress over the next decade. The Republican plan could tip an 8-to-5 balance in their favor if incumbency and voting performance are considered.
Western North Carolinians asked legislators to put aside political interests and consider voters' interests. Opponents argued that geography, distance and disparate interests would make it difficult for them to be represented fairly in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Demographics, economics and lifestyle are very different in the mountains and the Piedmont," said Connie Davies of Rutherford County. "There are struggles in Western North Carolina that people in the Piedmont are not facing."
Congressional campaigns would become more costly, opponents argued, because candidates would have to reach media markets in Asheville, Greenville and Charlotte to trumpet their message to the voters.
Mountain supporters of the Democrat plan championed it because it raised the percentage of African-American voters in the 11th congressional district from 4.4 percent to almost 10 percent. It also gives them more of an opportunity to elect a candidate from their political party.
"Right now people west of I-77 can't have a Democrat legislator although the district is 46 percent Democrat to 39 percent Republican," said Peter Baker of Asheville. "The towns of Gastonia and Shelby, which are mostly mill, working class and Democrat towns, have a lot in common with most of the 11th district."
House Democrat leaders said that while preserving communities is helpful, it isn't the only contributing factor to good government.
"A skilled legislator can represent various communities," said House Speaker Jim Black. "The community in my district is very diverse. It keeps you on your toes to balance several issues at once and makes you a better legislator."
House Committee members are expected to review, alter and vote on the competing Democrat and Republican plans next week. Members of the Buncombe County legislative delegation said they would negotiate to keep the 11th congressional district intact.
"I'd love to see my party be competitive in that district," said Sen. Steve Metcalf, a Buncombe County Democrat. "At the same time, I'm a citizen of Western North Carolina and I think our congressional district should reflect our mountain culture and our mountain issues."
Contact Fisher at (919) 833-7352 or [email protected]
Partisan politics took precedence over community interests as state lawmakers unveiled a congressional redistricting map on Tuesday that guts Western North Carolina.
The House Congressional Redistricting Committee met for the first time in several months to review the maps submitted by both political parties.
A public hearing will be held in Raleigh on the matter at 4 p.m. Thursday in the legislative auditorium in the General Assembly building.
House Democrat leaders propose scooping out Republican strongholds in Western North Carolina and transferring them to the 10th congressional district, while Cleveland County and a sliver of western Gastonia County would be added to a new 11th district. The change would leave a region of mostly Democratic voters and would theoretically would make it easier for a Democrat to win the 11th district seat, now held by Brevard Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor.
Under the Democratic plan, voters living in McDowell, southern Buncombe, most of Henderson, northern Transylvania, southern Haywood, northern Polk and western Rutherford counties would become part of the 10th congressional district, which stretches as far north as western Watauga County. U.S. Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-Catawba, currently represents the 10th district.
"It's theft with a pencil aimed at taking that which cannot be won by a vote," said Rep. Larry Justus, a Henderson County Republican. "I would be ashamed to present a map like that, even to my own party. It should be an insult to every North Carolinian and every Republican alike."
House Republicans drew a map that mostly keeps WNC whole, with the exception of dividing Rutherford County, while keeping an eye to party interests.
Democrats, however, were unabashed in advancing their party interests over those of communities across the state.
Rep. Thomas Wright, D-New Hanover and co-chairman of the committee, said it was his "legislative intent" to draw congressional districts that favored his party over the Republicans. Wright contends that federal law allows political gerrymandering.
"Incumbents will still win," he said. "In the future, it could change and shift. This is a futuristic plan. Maybe it makes incumbents a little more sensitive to Democrat issues if they continue to run (for office)."
Mountain lawmakers such as Rep. Marge Carpenter, R- Haywood, said the potential loss of Taylor advocating for WNC in congress could cost the region millions of dollars in federal resources.
"He now has the seniority to bring a lot of the money for grants for education and other things to this part of the state," Carpenter said. "How long are we going to have to wait for a new person to gain that ability? That's why people in WNC continue to vote for him, although it's a mostly Democrat district."
The Citizen-Times was unable to reach Taylor for comment on Tuesday.
Contact Fisher at (919) 833-7352 or [email protected]
A controversial redistricting proposal before the General Assembly is "a foolish, ill-conceived plan that would weaken your representation in Washington and potentially give you leadership from well outside the area," U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor said Wednesday.
Taylor, a Brevard Republican, made the comments in a teleconference from his Washington office to Citizen-Times staff.
"All this plan does is divide," Taylor said. "Whether it's veterans' concerns, dealing with federal land issues, looking at interstates, regional water systems, whatever, it takes some of those people you're dealing with and puts them into another district."
The proposal, drawn up by Democrat leaders in the state House, would carve away McDowell County and take southern Buncombe, northern Transylvania, southern Haywood, northern Polk and western Rutherford counties, along with most of Henderson County, from the 11th District into the 10th District. The 10th District would give up Cleveland County and a small portion of western Gaston County to the 11th District.
"Take me out of it all together, remove the political aspect and look at what it does to the district," Taylor said. "I'm not talking about either party right now, but what's best for the region, since we'll have to live with this for 10 years.
"It's bad, in the sense of confusion it creates for citizens. You live near the Asheville office and you go there with a concern and, because of where the lines are drawn, by law we have to send you to (another) district's office."
The motivation for the plan is to punish GOP success in congressional elections, the six-term representative said, while adding WNC is made up of mostly registered Democrats anyway. "This is simple gerrymandering."
"Regardless of party, these lines should be drawn up to serve the greater need," Taylor said. Republicans in the state House have offered a counter plan that keeps WNC whole, with the exception of Rutherford County.
A public hearing on the matter will be held at 4 p.m. today in the legislative auditorium in the General Assembly.
Contact Cantrell at 232-5922 or [email protected] TIMES.com.
Wake County would anchor part of a new congressional district under a redistricting plan unveiled Monday by Democrats in the N.C. House of Representatives.
The proposal would divide Wake among three congressional districts, squeezing part of the new district between the existing 2nd and 4th districts, now represented by Democrats.
The new 13th District would include parts of Raleigh and swing north to pick up Person and Caswell counties and parts of Granville, Alamance and Rockingham, before dropping down to pick up parts of Guilford County, including precincts in Greensboro.
The 2nd District, represented by U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, would include East Raleigh and southeast Wake County, along with Franklin, Harnett, Johnston and Lee counties, and parts Chatham, Cumberland, Nash, Sampson and Vance counties. The 4th District, where U.S. Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill would be the incumbent, would include Cary and precincts in northwest Wake, and Durham, Orange counties and parts of Chatham.
A House committee is scheduled to meet today to talk about the new districts proposed for congressional candidates. The redistricting bill, with descriptions of the new districts by county and precinct, was filed, but maps illustrating those districts will not be ready until today.
State Rep. Thomas Wright, a Wilmington Democrat and co-chairman of the House Congressional Redistricting Committee, said that he knows of five plans written by Democrats that may be considered as the chamber redraws district lines.
"The wrestling's occurring already," Wright said.
The General Assembly redraws congressional districts every decade, using information from the most recent census.
North Carolina, which now has a dozen congressional districts, is to elect 13 members of the U.S. House next year because the state's growth earned it an additional seat. And the surging population in Wake and surrounding counties has map drawers in the state legislature -- Democrats and Republicans -- envisioning a new district that includes parts of Wake.
House Republicans offered a competing map last week that puts part of the new district in Wake and pulls it south to include parts of Cumberland and Harnett counties as well as Lee and Chatham counties.
House Republicans said their map would probably result in a 7-6 split among the congressional delegation, with Republicans having the advantage.
Wright said he wants the House to approve a map that favors Democrats.
The General Assembly must approve three redistricting maps this session. The House and Senate have each approved new districts that would apply to their own membership, but the House needs to approve the Senate plan and the Senate must approve the House plan.
This year, the tradition of the state House and Senate writing their own plans without fear of changes from the other chamber may end.
After a House Rules Committee meeting on the Senate plan Monday, state Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat, said he will consult three African-American senators who don't like the map drawn by Democratic leaders about possible changes to their districts.
Sens. Luther Jordan of Wilmington and Larry Shaw of Fayetteville, both Democrats, objected to the Senate plan. Michaux said Sen. Charlie Dannelly, a Charlotte Democrat, was also dissatisfied with his district.
The Senate plan would institute "a diminution of black voting power," Michaux said. State Sen. Brad Miller, the Raleigh Democrat who led his chamber's redistricting committee, said black voters would still have the chance to elect African-American senators and, at the same time, influence elections in districts where blacks are not in the majority.
In an interview, Miller said that if the House changes the Senate plan "there's a very real possibility we simply won't pass the House plan and at some point, it will all be drawn by a judge or a special master appointed by a judge."
Staff writer Lynn Bonner can be reached at 829-4821 or [email protected].
Tar Heel Happenings
Preparing for the state Legislature to take up redistricting this week, North Carolina Republicans floated a new House map last week that would protect their seven Members, but could endanger Rep. Bobby Etheridge (D). The GOP plan also could reconfigure the districts of Reps. Robin Hayes (R), Mike McIntyre (D) and David Price (D).
Tar Heel Republicans held a news conference in Raleigh last Tuesday to scold Democrats, who control the Legislature and governor's office, for delaying the redistricting process. "Here it is November, and we think it's time to offer maps," said state Rep. Ed McMahan, the chief GOP map maker. "We really feel it should have been done months ago."
Specifically, Republicans are proposing that Etheridge's Raleigh-based district be given portions of Duplin and Pender counties and lose Lee County, which would make the seat more conservative. North Carolina gained one seat in reapportionment, and Republican legislators in Raleigh want to center the new 13th district in Wake, Chatham and Lee counties, rather than spread it from the Triangle to Greensboro, as some Democrats have proposed.
Democrats are drafting their own plan to create at least seven reliably Democratic seats. Although their plan likely will be considered the leading one, the GOP proposal is being watched for signs of how Republicans may challenge the Democratic one in court.
"The 2nd district would be desperately competitive at best for Democrats and probably lean Republican," under the Republican plan, state Sen. Brad Miller (D), chairman of the chamber's redistricting committee, told The Associated Press.
The House Republican map would "make the seven Republican incumbents very happy and very secure, and the Democratic incumbents somewhat less so," added Miller, who is eyeing the new seat North Carolina gained in reapportionment.
It's been called "the hidden election" and "the political system at its most competitive." But at its very basic level, redistricting is an incumbent protection plan, a sophisticated operation where one party uses a scalpel while the majority party wields a battle ax.
Last week, North Carolina House members approved a redistricting map along party lines in a 63 to 57 vote, with Republicans opposing the plan. The map increases the number of minority districts from 12 to 15 but also makes it possible for the Democrats to hold on to and possibly gain a number of seats in coming elections. State Republicans are crying foul, and with good reason. All attempts by Republicans to introduce an amendment to the redistricting map were thwarted by House Speaker Jim Black, who closed the floor to debate and discussion. And this current fight in the state House will almost certainly deal a crushing blow to bipartisan relations in Raleigh. One of the reasons Black won the speakership is because Republicans believed that he would offer them a fair shake on redistricting. Any deals that may have been struck obviously have not panned out ,and already there is talk of a court battle over the new map.
"Whoever sets up the legislative districts for the 2002 election basically sets up the elections for the whole decade," says UNC political scientist Thad Beyle.
Voters need to be informed on this issue. They need to know that this is the way of the process, regardless of which party is in power. Ultimately, redistricting is a political contrivance devised by the parties themselves to give their colleagues maximum job security. Never mind the collateral damage to meaningful voter choice.
The legislatures in most states are given the responsibility of redistricting, meaning that politicians get to choose their constituents rather than the voters choosing them.
And lawsuits over the way lines are drawn are becoming the rule rather than the exception - nevertheless, it's a monumental undertaking.
As Haywood County Republican Rep. Marge Carpenter and Jackson County Democratic Rep. Phil Haire point out, there are advantages to the largely unacceptable map that carves up their areas into separate districts. The conventional wisdom is that single-member districts bring North Carolina closer to the "one person, one vote" rule that ensures fairer representation. And single-member districts enable cost-effective campaigning and efficient constituent service for those elected.
Still there are inadequacies to this approach: Namely that it does nothing to eliminate partisan influence in redistricting or prevent the majority party from unfairly increasing its existing advantage by manipulating district lines.
Drawing political boundaries - by definition - is a make- or-destroy partisan affair. Rules of the game are devised and revamped according to who's in power - and the political process doesn't allow it to be otherwise. The current fight in Raleigh that stretches to the far western counties is a simple affirmation of the craft. Ideological camps are deeply divided - not with voters' rights in mind - but with re-election prospects being of paramount importance.
Political pressure from an informed electorate may be the only force that prevents parties from subverting the public's will. The people should not underestimate their ability to help maintain the integrity of the process and make their elected officials of either party adhere to fairness in redistricting.
There is no way to completely removed the partisan influence in the process but we can insist that representatives spend less time bickering and more time the first time drawing lines that pass constitutional muster.
We should insist that legislators give North Carolina a redistricting plan that will endure philosophical proximity. These should be the redistricting rules of engagement.
Six weeks of intense public debate and negotiations over a state House redistricting plan culminated with a successful vote for the chamber's Democratic leadership.
But with Republicans steamed over the plan and how their party was treated, there are sure to be state and federal lawsuits challenging the map that sets boundaries for the House's 120 districts for the next decade.
"I think everybody has assumed that there will be litigation, no matter what," said Joe Ferrell with the Institute of Government at UNC Chapel Hill.
The question is whether the lawsuits will be quickly dispatched by the courts or require legislators to return to Raleigh early next year or in the years ahead to fix districts ruled unlawful.
GOP members say the map approved Thursday in a party-line vote will unfairly throw several Republicans out of office. They said House Speaker Jim Black violated the chamber's own rules by refusing to recognize them and take up amendments they said had bipartisan support.
"We've been jerked around," House Minority Leader Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, told Black on the floor. "Experts say we will lose good people. Good districts are being destroyed."
Republican anger reached a fever pitch before the final vote, as members cited House rules for debate and tried to get Black to recognize them. Several screamed to get his attention, unsuccessfully.
"This should go to the courts now," yelled Rep. Don Davis, R-Harnett, after the map was approved 63-57.
After the session, Republicans said they will sue over the map itself, which they say violates the Voting Rights Act, as well as the debate, which they said was unconstitutional and denied their equal protection under the law.
"We're going to have lawsuits on the process, on not allowing the amendments," said Rep. Art Pope, R-Wake. He said he believes there's precedent to sue over the debate but declined to provide details.
Ferrell said odds are long that any judge would agree to hear a case about the House rules. He cited the separation of powers doctrine that says courts shouldn't meddle with powers expressly given to legislators.
"The judicial branch is extremely reluctant to get involved in the inner workings of the legislative branch," Ferrell said.
Black defended his actions on the floor. Democrats also said privately that House Republicans are complaining about the same tactics Rep. Harold Brubaker, R-Randolph, used when he was speaker from 1995 to 1998. Brubaker refused to recognize members for certain motions and often curbed debate. Many rules from Brubaker's time that gave the speaker wide latitude in debate were re-approved this year.
Democrats hold only a 62-58 majority. It was the first time in decades that Democrats had to draw districts to hold off a nearly-even minority party.
"Everybody knows that with 62 Republicans and 58 Democrats, it would have been the same pattern, but with reversed rolls," Ferrell said. Redistricting is "the most political thing that the legislature does."
Objections to the map itself could get some traction in the courts, Ferrell said. For example, Republicans in both the House and Senate claim the chambers' maps have violated the section in the N.C. Constitution that requires lawmakers to represent "as nearly as may be, an equal number of inhabitants."
Federal rulings have said the population of legislative districts could be within a range of plus or minus 5 percent of the ideal. But a state court could possibly narrow that range, Ferrell said.
Republicans also have been laying the groundwork for a lawsuit challenging the plan on the issue of race.
The final plan approved by the House created 15 districts in which the black population is more than 50 percent. There are currently 14 majority-black districts. An earlier proposal had 12, but five black Democrats and the NAACP pushed to add three.
Even so, Pope said, the Democratic plan harmed black voters by reducing their influence in 10 districts. He tried to propose a plan he said would expand the number of districts in which blacks were likely to win. Democrats dismissed the plan as a way to pack districts with blacks and make other seats more Republican.
EDITOR: Recent articles about efforts to devise new districts for the N.C.House should have raised questions in readers' minds about the appropriateness of gerrymandering district lines to benefit one of the major parties or the other.
At this point in the process, voters in Pender County, for example, face the likely prospect of the county being divided up, once again, in a way that helps incumbents from neighboring jurisdictions retain their seats, leaving Pender County represented by legislators who may lack interest in the welfare of Pender County and its residents.
Redistricting ought to be about improving representation rather than protecting incumbents or making it easier for the majority partyócurrently the Democratic Party, but quite possibly Republicans in the futureóto retain its advantage.
Some states have set up nonpartisan commissions to oversee the redistricting process. ...
Other reforms, using proportional voting systems, do an even better job of assuring fair representation, not just for geographical areas but for racial and ethnic minorities, for women and for those holding widely-shared views on important issues.
Let us open up the political dialogue to consider alternatives to the present system.
David Richie Hampstead