North Carolina's Redistricting News
Raleigh News & Observer: "With maps rewritten,
next challenge is moving elections along." May 20,
Raleigh News & Observer
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Last week, state lawmakers did what some thought they couldn't do -- approve new legislative redistricting maps in a compressed time schedule set by a lower court judge.
But even if that plan receives final court approval, it leaves unanswered one fundamental question: when is the state finally going to hold this year's primary elections?
The setting of the date will determine also determine whether the state has enough time to hold run-off primaries. And that's an issue of critical importance to the political candidates lining up to seek office in North Carolina, from sheriff to U.S. Senate.
It will still be several more weeks before state election officials know when they can hold a primary election.
Before that happens, the new legislative plans have to receive court approval, or be replaced by court-drawn plans. Then the U.S. Justice Department must give its OK to the maps, examining how they effect minority voting.
Once the new maps receive Justice Department preclearance, which could take as long as 60 days, legislative candidates will be given a new filing period -- 10 days to two weeks -- to announce their intentions to seek office. Then, election officials say, it will take at least five weeks for ballots to be printed and absentee voting to be held.
All of that could add up to a mid-September primary. And that would leave no time for a runoff primary.
The compressed schedule scenario has created plenty of speculation about who would best benefit in races across the state, with much of the talk centering on the contest to replace retiring GOP Sen. Jesse Helms.
Ted Arrington, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, says it is easy to go along with common wisdom that Republican Elizabeth Dole benefits most from the delay.
After all, she's enjoys the most name recognition of any of the candidates. If she wins her party's nomination as expected, that will make it harder for the Democrat picked to make up ground.
Still, Arrington said the delay has forced Dole to stake herself out on more issues than she might have liked before the general election.
"Her problem is that enunciating on the issues now forces her to move to the right," he said. "But after the primary, she needs to move to the middle."
But he sees Democrat Erskine Bowles suffering the most from the delay. Bowles is the perceived front runner among the Democrats, and the delay gives Elaine Marshall and Dan Blue more time to catch up.
If he wins the nomination, he will have less time to catch Dole.
Then there is the issue of the second primary.
Under North Carolina law now, a candidate has to win more than 40 percent of the vote in a primary to avoid a runoff.
Some observers believe Blue, in particular, could use his appeal with black voters and liberals to take a plurality of the vote in a low-turnout September primary.
Still, Blue said he doesn't favor doing away with a runoff primary if it means eliminating them in local races or even this year's congressional contests.
"If we are going to look at these changes, we ought to look at the effect it's going to have on the others," he said. "I think I'm going to win the primary, whether it's the first or second primary."
Blue has long been an advocate of doing away with runoffs in statewide races. He says just once since 1990 has the outcome of a race changed in which a leading candidate received 25 percent of the vote.
"It's proven since 1990 to be a waste of tax dollars," he said.
Lawmakers considered legislation last week that would have given the five-member state Board of Elections power to set a primary date and decide whether there is enough time to hold runoffs.
The Senate approved the bill, but the House decided to delay taking action on it.
Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, said doing away with all second primaries now amounts to changing "the rules in the middle of an election."
Michaux himself was the victim of a second primary in 1982, when he lost to then 2nd District U.S. Rep. Tim Valentine. Michaux took more than 40 percent of the vote in the initial primary, but at that time the state required a 50 percent majority.
The race led to the changes requiring only the 40 percent threshold.
Michaux also isn't embracing the idea of having an unelected state board making the decision.
"I don't want five people determining whether there is going to be a second primary," he said. "How do we know what's going into that decision?"
A spate of recent cases involving classrooms and redistricting have thrust North Carolina into what some legal scholars contend is a sea change in how courts operate.
Judges are showing less deference to legislatures and state agencies, demonstrating an increasing willingness to strike down a state law or tell a department what to do.
Former judges describe the new activism as the courts' proper role as interpreting the law, even if that is unpopular and seen as heavy-handed.
"Judges are not around to directly serve the public's viewpoints," said Burley Mitchell, former chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court and a former state secretary of crime control. "The court's responsibility is to the public, indirectly, but first to the constitution and the law."
Critics, however, label recent cases as examples of "judicial activism" or "judicial supremacy," when courts appear to think they know best.
Judges are reaching deep into policy disputes, such as a federal court decision last year that N.C. Medicaid patients could sue the state over whether it provides sufficient access to dental care.
And Howard Manning, a Superior Court judge in Raleigh, made himself something of a czar over the state's schools, ordering a certified teacher in every classroom and a statewide, pre-kindergarten program.
The lawsuit was filed in 1994 by low wealth counties arguing that the state's method of funding schools by population shortchanged their rural communities.
Many lawmakers argue that such matters are the responsibility of legislators or the governor, the public's elected representatives. The pre-kindergarten program ordered by Manning, for example, may be a wise idea, said Rep. Sam Ellis, but it's a decision for the General Assembly.
"You have a judge who's decided he's going to change the education system and add some language to the constitution to do it," said Ellis, R-Wake.
This year, the state high court stepped into the issue of how legislators draw their district boundaries, a responsibility previously deemed as so exclusive to the General Assembly that even the governor has no say in the map.
Republicans sued, saying the new boundaries drawn by Democratic legislators violate a requirement in the state constitution that district lines should not divide counties. In their court arguments, though, the GOP's lawyers presented more of a political case, saying the new map protected Democrats and incumbents.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming weeks on another political district case. The justices heard arguments in March over whether a statistical process -- hot deck imputation -- is unlawful. In that process, a home that has not responded to the census is assigned a number of residents based on the neighbors' numbers. Utah contends that imputation cheated them of a new congressional seat that went to North Carolina instead.
The Supreme Court's willingness to intervene in such cases is one element in the shift toward less deferential courts, legal scholars said.
"We have no one on this court who has served in the federal legislature. These people have contempt for Congress," said Garrett Epps, a Duke University law professor specializing in the Supreme Court. "If the Utah (case's) result is unfavorable to North Carolina, this is part of what's going on."
Court watchers suggest that some conservative judges, with those at the federal level appointed during the 12 years of the Reagan and elder Bush presidencies, may want to balance out the years of liberal "activist" decisions by the Supreme Court under Earl Warren in the 1960s.
"Many such federal judges have an interpretive or constitutional agenda whereby they are downright eager to force certain issues on to the Supreme Court's plate," said David Garrow, a Supreme Court specialist at Emory Law School in Atlanta.
N.C. Sen. Brad Miller resigned Monday as senior chairman of the Senate redistricting committee, saying it would be a conflict to remain in that role while running for Congress in a district he helped draw.
Miller, a Democrat who helped draw the state's new 13th congressional district, has been criticized by Republicans as a symbol of gerrymandering, when the political party in power draws district maps to preserve or advance its own interests.
Miller said he will remain on the committee but should not continue as chairman since he is running in the new district. Last year, when the committee did its work, Miller repeatedly said he was contemplating running but had not declared himself a candidate.
"It was awkward before," Miller said. "It would cross the line if I were to play the same kind of role, now that I've filed" as a candidate.
Miller's committee finished its work in November, and he began campaigning and raising money in December. His chairmanship could have resurfaced as an issue because of pending court challenges that could send legislators back to draw yet another set of maps.
The states draw new district lines every 10 years to reflect population shifts measured by the census. North Carolina received an additional district because of the state's population growth during the 1990s. The 13th district stretches from Greensboro to Raleigh.
During the redistricting process, Miller and other Democrats said they were aiming to improve their party's numbers within the state's congressional delegation. Democrats now hold five of 12 congressional seats. The new district lines make it easier to increase the Democratic ranks.
"The whole thing has been so blatantly self-serving and bizarre from the beginning," said U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes, a Concord Republican, whose district was made more Democratic under a map that Miller helped draw. "This is something that they whisper about behind closed doors in Washington at (Democratic headquarters). He was the first one that had the nerve and the gall to openly say it."
Miller's role remained an issue after the new district lines were drawn last fall, because the maps may not be final. The N.C. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Thursday over a Republican lawsuit charging that the state legislative districts violate the N.C. Constitution's requirement that district lines not divide counties.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit by Utah claiming that the new congressional seat awarded to North Carolina should have gone to Utah because the census used an unconstitutional method of counting people.
If either court rules against the new district maps, the House and Senate redistricting committees likely will have to redraw them and, then, the full General Assembly will have to approve them.
Miller said in an Observer story Sunday that if the U.S. Supreme Court takes away the state's 13th district, that would pressure Democrats to pick up another congressional seat somewhere else. One logical avenue to do that would be to further alter Hayes's district to make it safe for a Democrat. Sen. Frank Ballance, a co-chairman of the Senate redistricting committee, is also a congressional candidate, but in the 1st District in northeastern North Carolina. He does not plan to resign.
"I've been fair in the past," Ballance said. "I can be fair in the future."
The state Board of Elections on Tuesday called off all of North Carolina's May primary elections, including a U.S. Senate race and 13 congressional contests.
The postponed elections include the primary to nominate candidates to succeed outgoing Republican Sen. Jesse Helms.
The board did not immediately set a new date.
Last week, the North Carolina Supreme Court halted all state legislative primaries set for May 7 because of a lower-court ruling that the newly drawn legislative districts were unconstitutional.
On Tuesday, the five-member elections board voted unanimously to delay all elections that had been set for that date, saying multiple primary dates could hurt voter turnout and add to state and county expenses.
GOP legislators had sued over the redistricting plan, saying Democratic legislative leaders unconstitutionally split counties in drawing new districts.
And now, in addition to green peas and fried chicken on the campaign banquet circuit, add a helping of chaos. All of North Carolina's legislative primary elections, slated for May 7, may be delayed.
The state Supreme Court on Thursday gave comfort to Republicans waging a court fight against legislative districts drawn by a Democratic-controlled General Assembly. The court will hear arguments April 4 as to the constitutionality of the districts, which Republicans contend violate the state constitution because too many counties are split in the formation of districts. (The constitution says counties should not be split, but that rule has not been met for decades.)
What's more, it's possible that congressional primaries could be affected if the court rules in the Republicans' favor, given the expense involved in holding statewide elections on two different days.
The GOP believes, not without reason, that Democrats drew the lines to favor Democratic candidates and ensure their party's control of the legislature. And while some measure of partisanship is always expected when it comes to redistricting -- and usually is grudgingly tolerated by the minority party -- Republicans believe the Democrats indulged in wretched partisan excess this time out.
All sides agree a mess is at hand, but Democrats frankly should have expected it. And the party is bound to be uneasy that the decision will be in the hands of a Supreme Court with a 5-2 Republican majority, though the decision to review the issue was unanimous. A court ruling will at least offer some clarity and possibly make future redistricting more orderly. And perhaps the fact that a challenge has made it this far will be instructive to future legislatures. The instruction? Play hard, but play fair.
North Carolina's legislative primaries may not be held as scheduled May 7 after a ruling Thursday by the state Supreme Court.
The injunction halting primaries for state House and Senate seats follows a lower court ruling that new legislative districts are unconstitutional.
In the order, Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake said there may be insufficient time to reschedule the elections if the state's high court waits until after it rules on an appeal of the lower court's order.
The appeal is scheduled to be considered by the state Supreme Court on April 4.
"It's a monumental decision. It's going to restore democracy. The people have won," said Senate Minority Leader Patrick Ballantine, R-New Hanover.
Ballantine is among the Republican lawmakers who filed a lawsuit challenging the new districts, which were drawn by the Democratic leaders controlling both chambers.
The lawsuit contends Democrats ignored a provision in the state constitution which prohibits counties from being divided, helping them to keep legislative majorities.
Attorneys for the state argue that the U.S. Voting Rights Act and requirements for proportional representation have invalidated the state constitutional requirement.
Last month, Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins sided with the Republicans, saying the federal requirements didn't mean lawmakers could simply ignore the state constitution.
In his ruling, Jenkins left it up to the state's appellate courts to decide whether to delay upcoming primaries by staying his own order.
Thursday's order by the Supreme Court allows the General Assembly to reschedule other primaries, including those for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jesse Helms and U.S. House races.
However, the court order required that legislative primaries be put off "until further order of this Court."
It wasn't immediately clear whether congressional primaries would be rescheduled. Both Republican and Democratic legislative leaders were not relishing the thought of a divided primary.
In 1998, when congressional primaries were split from other races, just 7 percent of the state's voters turned out to select party nominees for the U.S. House.
"Do they (the other races) go forward? Do we stop everything? Primaries are expensive," said Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland.
Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, said he hoped to "avoid disruptions of our democratic process, and we will consider any options that help us work toward that goal."
Ballantine urged Democratic leaders and the state Board of Elections to set a new date in which all primaries, including legislative races, could be decided.
Questions remain about whether the state elections board can move other primary elections without a vote by the General Assembly, which isn't scheduled to convene until May 28. State elections director Gary Bartlett said he believes the board will consult with legislative leaders before taking any action.
But the order also raises the possibility that lawmakers could hold a special legislative session to address a final court ruling.
Officials at the state attorney general's office agreed Thursday's order effectively delays the legislative primaries. However, Rand and other state officials weren't willing to concede that the May 7 primaries wouldn't proceed through additional court action.
Tom Farr, a lawyer representing the Republicans, said he believes the order sends a clear signal from the state's high court that elections should be moved.
"It is obviously an extraordinary remedy and indicates that they felt an extraordinary remedy was needed," Farr said.
John Bason, a spokesman for state Attorney General Roy Cooper, said the order should not be viewed as a final ruling.
"We trust that the Supreme Court will carefully consider this case on the merits when it is argued in April," he said.
The N.C. Supreme Court today barred the state from holding primary elections for the state House and Senate on May 7 using districts that a lower court had found to be unconstitutional.
The unanimous order, while it applies only to legislative elections, places in question whether all primary elections will be rescheduled by the state Board of Elections. It came less than a week after the end of candidate filing for the primaries.
Last month, Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins agreed with Republicans that the legislative districts drawn by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly last year unnecessarily split counties in violation of the state Constitution.
The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments April 4 on the appeal of that decision. Republican plaintiffs contend that the legislature split more counties than was necessary to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. The aim, the plaintiffs said, was to ensure Democratic control of the General Assembly.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits the dilution of minority voting strength, covers 40 North Carolina counties. The new district maps that the General Assembly approved split 70 counties to form state House districts and split 51 counties to create Senate districts.
Democratic legislators claimed that they did not have to abide by the whole counties' provision because the Justice Department objected to it 1981 and a U.S. District Court ruled in 1983 that the provision was unenforceable.
If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court decision, the General Assembly would have to return to Raleigh and redraw the districts before legislative primaries could be held.
Even with the expedited hearing schedule, the court said there may be insufficient time to resolve the issue in an orderly manner for legislative primary elections to be held in May.>
The U.S. Justice Department approved North Carolina's new congressional districts Friday, avoiding a repeat of the protracted dispute sparked by the last redistricting in the 1990s.
The Justice Department said the new map ó which adds a 13th congressional district ó met the requirements of the Voting Rights Act and could be used in choosing North Carolina's representatives.
The 1965 act requires federal review of voting plans that affect 40 North Carolina counties.
The ruling, combined with a similar decision Monday on state House and Senate districts, means the filing period for legislative and congressional races will begin as scheduled next week, said Johnnie McLean with the state Board of Elections. Primary elections are set for May 7.
A separate ruling Friday by a state judge in Smithfield threw the future of the legislative districts into doubt, however.
Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins ruled the plan violated a provision of the state constitution to keep counties whole when drawing legislative districts.
The judge set a hearing for Wednesday to discuss possible remedies but said he could ultimately leave the drawing of new districts to lawmakers in 2003.
Attorneys for the state did not indicate whether they would appeal. They had argued the Voting Rights Act invalidated the constitutional requirement not to split counties.
'"One man, one vote' changed that. The landscape changed," said Tiare Smiley of the attorney general's office.
Republican lawmakers who sued over the state districts said they want the judge to stop the upcoming elections and force the Legislature to redraw the map.
"I would argue there is more irreparable harm to have legislators elected under unconstitutional maps," state Sen. Patrick Ballantine said.
Democratic House Speaker Jim Black said the new districts were both fair and legal.
"I do not believe voters want to elect members of the General Assembly from huge multimember districts as proposed by the plaintiffs," Black said.
North Carolina's new congressional map, approved by the General Assembly in December, corresponds to population changes reported in the 2000 census. The state was awarded an additional district as its population grew by 23 percent during the 1990s.
The map's authors say it will likely keep Republicans in six of the seven districts they now control, while giving Democrats an advantage in six other districts.
The state's congressional district lines were the subject of court fights throughout the 1990s as lawmakers and attorneys argued over the 12th District.
The U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) ruled three times as justices tried to determine whether race could be the predominant factor in drawing district boundaries. The General Assembly ultimately was forced to redraw the majority-black 12th District with a black population below 50 percent.
The new map keeps one majority-black congressional district, the 1st District, which covers all or part of 23 eastern, mostly rural counties.>
The U.S. Justice Department approved the General Assembly's plans for new state House and Senate districts Monday, the first time since 1971 that the department has OK'd any redistricting map on the North Carolina legislature's first try.
The approvals buoyed Democratic lawmakers, who are optimistic that the department will approve the state's plan for 13 congressional districts by week's end and that primary elections will be held in May as scheduled.
"I have always thought that the congressional plan was the safest of the three," said state Sen. Brad Miller of Raleigh, a Democrat who led the Senate's redistricting effort. "I believe we will have a May 7 primary."
Lawmakers and prospective candidates have been eagerly awaiting the Justice Department's decision about redrawn districts. Had the maps been rejected, the General Assembly would have had to return to Raleigh for a special session to draw new legislative districts, and the State Board of Elections would have been forced to delay primary elections.
The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department reviews redistricting plans in some Southern states for compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act. The law, which applies to 40 counties in North Carolina, seeks to prevent legal barriers that would dilute African-American voting strength. States subject to the law must obtain Justice Department approval of redistricting plans and election laws in a process known as "preclearance." Still, the courts have ruled that race cannot be the predominant factor in drawing new districts.
The state House and Senate plans approved by the Democrat-controlled legislature still face a challenge from North Carolina Republicans in state court. A Superior Court judge has scheduled a hearing Friday on the GOP's motion for summary judgment. The congressional plan is the subject of two federal lawsuits. In one, state Republicans contend that the legislature could have drawn another congressional district with an African-American majority.
State legislatures redraw election districts every 10 years to conform to the results of the U.S. Census.
In recent years, racial divisions have infused the process, in which each party tries to make election gains through the reconfiguration of district boundaries.
In the state House, for example, five African-American legislators worked with Republicans to delay passage of the House plan until more districts were drawn in which African-American voters could influence election results.
The House plan has 12 districts with African-American majorities and eight more in which African-Americans make up 40 to 49 percent of the population. The House currently has 14 districts with majority African-American populations and six others where African-Americans are more than 40 percent of the population.
State Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat who fought for more African-American majority districts, was surprised that the Senate plan won Justice Department approval.
The Senate could have drawn a district in Fayetteville with a majority African-American population but didn't, he said.
"I had a problem with the Senate map, and I still do have a problem with it," Michaux said. "But I guess the Justice Department didn't see it the way I see it.
Three state senators, two of them African-American, joined the majority of Republicans in opposing the Senate district plan. In the Senate plan, African-Americans make up a majority in two districts and are between 40 percent and 50 percent in four districts. The last Senate redistricting plan, approved in 1992, had four districts with African-American majorities and two in which African-Americans were 40 percent to 50 percent of the population and could have a strong influence on elections.
Miller said the Justice Department asked tough questions about two new Senate districts represented by African-American Democrats: the 41st in Fayetteville and Sampson County, where Larry Shaw is the incumbent and the black population would drop from 43.3 percent to 40.6 percent; and the 7th, where Luther Jordan is the incumbent and where the black population would drop from 43 percent to 29 percent.
But Miller said the state was able to show that politics in the state have changed and that white voters are willing to support black candidates.
"It is a different state politically than it was 37 years ago when the Voting Rights Act was passed," Miller said. "I'm pleased that the Justice Department has taken that into account."
State Sen. Patrick Ballantine, a Wilmington Republican and the Senate minority leader, said he was disappointed the Justice Department approved a Senate plan that he believes violates federal law. The percentage of black voters in 14 Senate districts represented by white Democrats has increased while the percentages have decreased in five of seven Senate districts where black Democrats are the incumbents.
"I wouldn't have ruled that way," Ballantine said. "I'm not in the Justice Department, but I feel that they did a disservice to African-Americans in North Carolina.">
Republicans suing the state over a redistricting plan passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature asked the court Tuesday to decide the case in their favor without a trial.
Attorneys for the state Republicans want Superior Court Judge Knox V. Jenkins Jr. to toss out maps approved by the General Assembly last year because members of the GOP say the maps split counties, in violation of the state Constitution.
The state Attorney General's Office plans to ask for a decision in the state's favor or for a trial.
A hearing on the Republicans' motion has been scheduled for Feb. 15 in Smithfield.
Republicans want the state to have legislative districts that avoid splitting counties, except where splitting may be required to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. The constitutional amendment that requires that counties remain whole was adopted in 1968, but only redistricting plans drawn in 1971 adhered to it.
Democrats in the legislature who redrew the legislative districts said the "whole counties" provision cannot be enforced because the U.S. Justice Department never approved it and because a federal district court said the requirement could not logically be carried out in some counties and not others.
Lawyers for state GOP Chairman Bill Cobey, Republican activist Ashley Stephenson and three Republican legislators are asking Jenkins to throw out the maps approved last year and to prohibit elections under the existing plans, which were drawn in 1992.
At a hearing last week, the GOP's attorneys said they want the maps thrown out before the State Board of Elections and candidates start using them. Candidates will begin filing for office Feb. 18 if the U.S. Justice Department decides by then that the maps for legislative and congressional districts comply with the Voting Rights Act. The Justice Department sent word last week that it planned to reach a decision about the legislative plans by Feb. 11.>
Imagine a fall campaign season when, rather than picking between one of two candidates for the state House, you would be asked to choose three, four or eight candidates from a list of politicians that could fill a college basketball roster.
For the most part, everyone in your county would vote to fill the same legislative seats -- you and your neighbors would almost always have the same state House representatives and senators.
North Carolina elected legislators this way for most of its history.
Now, Republicans are using the past to fight for control of the legislature. So far, it's an argument that has given the GOP favorable rulings in its legal challenge to redistricting plans the legislature approved last year.
The Democrat-controlled legislature, carrying out the once-a-decade mandate to redraw legislative districts to reflect changes in the state population, drew district lines highly favorable to the election of Democratsóat least until the 2011 redistricting when the partisan jockeying for power starts all over again.
In their fight against the 2001 legislative plan, Republicans want the courts to enforce a state constitutional mandate that in many cases would prevent district lines from splitting counties. Adhering to the "whole counties" mandate would make for the kinds of district plans that were in force 30 years ago.
"They would look like what we've had for most of our 200-year history," said state Rep. Art Pope, a Raleigh Republican who is part of the lawsuit.
Republicans say redistricting maps can be created that meld the state requirement for whole counties with the 1964 federal Voting Rights Act, which seeks to allow African-American voters to elect the candidates they choose. Republicans brought the case to prevent having districts that cross county, city and precinct lines to skim Democratic voters for districts Democratic lawmakers wanted members of their party to win.
"You can't have the political gerrymandering you have seen in the past when you introduce this neutral criteria," said William Peaslee, political director and special legal counsel for the state Republican Party.
The Republicans have won significant court victories in the past two months, fighting back several attempts by the state Attorney General's Office to stop state courts from hearing the case.
At a hearing in Smithfield last week, Superior Court Judge Knox V. Jenkins Jr. said Republicans were likely to prevail, though he warned that the outcome was uncertain.
For the past 20 years, the legislature has drawn maps under the assumption that the whole counties provision in the state constitution cannot be enforced because the U.S. Justice Department never approved it and because a federal court said the state could ignore the county-splitting ban. The result has been more single-member districts that string together pieces of counties.
Republicans say that counties and groups of counties can be drawn as single districts in plans that comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.
To demonstrate, Republicans submitted with their lawsuit a state House map that has 28 districts with one House member each, and 21 districts with two or more representatives. Most of Wake County would be in a district electing eight House members. Gaston County and much of Mecklenburg County would compose a district electing 10 House members. By comparison, the redistricting plan approved last year has 105 single-member House districts, and no district would elect more than three members.
Those maps also create more "swing" districts, and would likely elect more Republicans to the state House and Senate.
State Sen. Brad Miller, the Raleigh Democrat who led his chamber's redistricting effort, said maps created with whole counties as a top priority make math the driving force in drawing boundaries. Counties would be joined to create districts with close to the ideal population, not because they have interests in common. "To have a process driven by math strikes me as a perfectly ridiculous way to go about redistricting," he said.
Andrew Taylor, an associate professor of political science at N.C. State University, said he could not think of good reasons to create multimember districts.
Legislative campaigns are usually contests in which voters have little information about candidates, and voters might have a hard time if they are asked to select four people in one race.
Voters are "generally trained to think of two major party candidates, and try to compare one against the other," Taylor said.
"If you're going to pick four out of seven or eight, choices between four and five are very arbitrary, especially in low-information races."
For most of the legislative session, Republicans pushed for redistricting plans with no multimember districts. The larger, two-member districts make candidates cover vast territory and drive up campaign costs, they said.
Pope was one of the strongest advocates for single-member districts. But, he said, multimember districts would be better than the latest redistricting proposals.
"My first preference would be for compact, single-member districts," he said. But compared to "the extremely gerrymandered single-member districts where nobody knows who their members are, I much prefer multimember districts that respect county lines," he said.
He thinks communities with common interests are more likely to be in the same legislative district when counties must remain whole.
"The current definition of 'communities of interest,' " he said, is "whether it maximizes the number of Democratic seats protecting the Democrat incumbents.">
The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will hold hearings in a case that could affect the makeup of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, whose membership will be up for grabs in elections this November.
At issue is Utah's claim that the 2000 Census used impermissible statistical methods to estimate a small portion of the population, thus shifting an additional House seat in the next Congress to North Carolina that Utah believes it should have gotten.
If Utah wins at the high court, the GOP-controlled state could pick up a seat, and North Carolina, whose legislature is controlled by the Democrats, would lose its new seat.
A Republican loss of just six seats in November could cost the party its majority. Utah has three House members now, two of them Republicans, one a Democrat. North Carolina has 12, five Democrats and seven Republicans. The current breakdown of the House as a whole is 222 Republicans, 211 Democrats and two independents, one of whom caucuses with the Democrats and one with the Republicans.
The case centers on "hot-deck imputation," a statistical method that has been used by the Census Bureau since 1960. When census-takers cannot determine, after repeated attempts, whether a particular household is occupied or not, they "impute" a number of residents to it based on the characteristics of neighboring households.
Utah argues that this violates both the constitutional requirement for "an actual enumeration" of each U.S. resident every 10 years and a federal law banning statistical "sampling" by the Census for purposes of apportioning House seats.
The Bush administration, joined by North Carolina, argues that the method is not like sampling, in which a large population's characteristics are projected based on characteristics found in a randomly selected portion. Instead, they say, "hot-deck imputation" is a non-random means of filling in specific incomplete data. In the 2000 Census, imputation accounted for 0.4 percent of the population total of 281.4 million.
Last year, a three-judge panel in a Utah federal district court upheld the method. But Utah appealed to the Supreme Court under special rules permitting it to bypass a lower federal appeals court.
The court last dealt with the politically charged issue of Census methods in 1999, when the Republican-controlled House brought suit against the Clinton administration to block "sampling," which is thought to favor Democrats because it slightly raises the head count in inner cities and other pro-Democratic areas.
In that case, a five-member majority of the court ruled that sampling violated federal law, but did not decide the constitutional issue. However, only Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a perennial swing vote, agreed entirely with that approach; dissenting and concurring opinions showed that the court's most conservative members doubted whether the Constitution permits any kind of statistical estimation, while the court's four most liberal members thought it might.
Because the Utah case came up as a direct appeal from the district court, the court must first agree to take jurisdiction over the case -- even before getting to the substance of it.
Yesterday's order, however, postponed a decision on the jurisdictional issue until after the hearing, meaning that the court has preserved the option of dismissing Utah's claim without necessarily having to write an opinion on "hot-deck imputation."
Also, the court's normal internal timetable would not allow enough time to dispose of this case before the justices go on a three-month summer recess at the end of June. But yesterday's order left it up to the parties to ask the court for an expedited hearing so that the case can be settled in time for elections to proceed.
Utah Chief Civil Deputy Attorney General Raymond A. Hintze said the state will file a motion to expedite the hearing immediately. "We believe they'll hear it in the current term," Hintze said. "They know that for Utah and North Carolina there would be a lot of problems if this were left in limbo."
The North Carolina attorney general, Roy Cooper, was dismissive of the Utah case. "In the hope that one would finally stick, Utah has continued to fling every possible legal theory against the wall," Cooper said. "So far, they've all slid to the floor and we believe the U.S. Supreme Court will not allow this theory to hold up either."
The case is Utah v. Evans, No. 01-714.
Separately, the Supreme Court yesterday ruled that states seeking to confine a convicted sexual predator for psychiatric treatment after his prison sentence must show that the offender has "serious difficulty" controlling his impulses to commit sex crimes.
The 7-2 decision rolled back a ruling by the Kansas state supreme court, which had held that such confinement would violate an offender's constitutional rights unless the state could prove that he "cannot" control himself because of a mental disorder.
"An absolutist approach is unworkable," Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the court majority. Under the high court's 1997 decision that generally upheld Kansas's Sexually Violent Predator Act, Breyer wrote, "[i]t is enough to say that there must be proof of serious difficulty in controlling behavior."
However, the court also rejected Kansas's claim that it did not have to show any degree of lack of control by the offender, leaving juries and lower courts in the 19 states, including Maryland, that have sexual predator laws like Kansas's to sort out the practical effect of yesterday's ruling.
In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, accused the court of "gutting" its 1997 ruling. The court, Scalia wrote, "gives trial courts . . . not a clue as to how they are supposed to charge the jury!"
The case is Kansas v. Crane, No. 00-957.>
The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to consider whether census takers may estimate the size of one household based on that of its neighbors, an inexact technique critics say flouts the Constitution's requirement for an ``actual enumeration.''
The household estimation method is used as a last resort when census workers repeatedly fail to find anyone home.
The court will hear an appeal from Utah, which claims that methods used in the 2000 census robbed the state of one of its congressional seats. The court also wants both sides to give their views on whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the case.
If the justices conclude that they do not have jurisdiction, the decision of a lower court against Utah would stand.
The court is expected to hear the case next fall, and its ruling would not affect races to fill congressional seats in the November election.
Utah lost a separate census challenge last year, when the high court refused to hear complaints that the census wrongly excluded Mormon missionaries working overseas.
In the latest Utah case, a panel of three federal judges voted 2-1 in November to dismiss the state's lawsuit challenging the household estimation technique.
The lower court said it is reasonable to assume that households in the same neighborhood will be of similar size.
In its appeal to the Supreme Court, the state argued that the phrase ``actual enumeration'' means the Constitution's framers specifically ruled out guesswork.
``There simply is no plausible understanding of the term,'' that would permit the use of estimated numbers in apportioning House seats, lawyers for the state wrote.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has said the estimation method disproportionately benefited North Carolina, which picked up a seat in Congress after the head count.
The state also argued the estimation method is little different than another statistical tool called ``sampling.'' The Supreme Court split 5-4 to rule in 1999 that sampled census numbers cannot be used to parcel out congressional seats.
The 435 House seats are redistributed according to state population after each decennial census.
At the time, the Census Bureau and the Democratic Clinton administration said sampling would help make up for an expected undercount of minorities in the 2000 head count. Democrats generally support the practice while Republicans oppose it.
In the current case, the Republican Bush administration defended use of the household estimation technique, and urged the Supreme Court to uphold the lower court.
In the 2000 census, the estimation accounted for less than half a percent of the total U.S. population. But that may have been enough to give North Carolina the extra seat.
In the formula used to determine House seats, Utah finished just 857 residents behind North Carolina, another fast-growing state. The figures gave North Carolina its 13th seat and left Utah with three.
Utah has fought its loss through several courts, and hoped the Supreme Court would accept its appeal as part of the current term. That would have meant a ruling by July, in time to affect the fall elections.
The court apparently did not see the same urgency. Results of the congressional reapportionment are already set, which may lead the court to conclude there is nothing to be settled by continuing with the case.
The Supreme Court affirmed another lower court ruling against Utah in November. In that case, Utah claimed that it was unfair to count federal workers and military personnel posted overseas while excluding others temporarily living outside the United States.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper intervened in both lawsuits in defense of the census results.>
A judge refused Friday to dismiss a lawsuit challenging North Carolina's new legislative districts, saying the state courts should decide the issues raised by Republican lawmakers.
Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins also refused a motion by the state's attorneys to move the proceedings to Raleigh.
The GOP lawsuit claims Democrats contorted the new district maps for their benefit while ignoring requirements in the state constitution to avoid splitting counties.
The House plan divides 70 of North Carolina's 100 counties to form 112 districts. Meanwhile, the Senate map divides 51 counties to establish 46 districts.
Democrats hope the maps allow them to expand their majority in the House from 62 to 67 while maintaining a solid 35-15 lock on the Senate.
Last month, an attorney for the lawmakers who sued said other states have shown that they could balance state constitutional requirements and the requirement of the Voting Rights Act not to dilute minority voting strength.
State Attorney General Roy Cooper lost a bid to have the case tried in federal court. Spokesman John Bason said Cooper wanted the case tried there to speed up the process so that elections aren't delayed.
Jenkins was expected to hear arguments later Friday for a preliminary injunction to stop election procedures until the legal challenge is decided.>
The election filing period, once scheduled to begin Monday, may now start in mid-February and could be delayed again if redistricting lawsuits go forward.
Any additional delays would probably force postponement of the May 7 primaries until summer or early fall.
"It doesn't take much to take the election off the current track," state Board of Elections director Gary Bartlett said Wednesday.
State legislators decided in November to push the start of the filing period from Jan. 7 to Feb. 18. The filing period also was shortened from four weeks to two weeks, closing it March 1.
But like the filing delay, any postponement of the May primary would affect candidates for every office from county commissioner to U.S. Senate. For some it would shorten the time to raise money, plan strategy and build name recognition for November's election.
Redistricting delays during the General Assembly's record-long session prompted lawmakers to postpone the filing date.
The districts approved for state House, Senate and Congress now are being reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department, which could take several more weeks. State lawmakers would have to redraw and resubmit their maps should the federal government find the boundaries violate the law.
At least two lawsuits have been filed against the state's congressional and legislative districts. A Johnston County Superior Court judge has ordered a Jan. 18 hearing in one of the cases, a move that could also delay the primary.
Filing in 1992 was pushed back five weeks by a Justice Department review. In 1998 a Supreme Court decision on the 12th congressional district delayed congressional primaries until September.
State Sen. Brad Miller (D) liked the Democratic district he helped draw in North Carolina so much that last week he decided to run for it.
Actually, Miller made that decision several months ago, around the time that North Carolina gained a House seat in reapportionment and he assumed the gavel of the state Senate redistricting committee.
Last week, however, days after the Democratic-controlled Legislature gave its final endorsement of the map, Miller, a Raleigh attorney, formally filed his candidacy with the Federal Election Commission and tapped a campaign manager, Kevin LeCount. LeCount worked out of state Democratic headquarters this year to help the Legislature draw the new map.
Miller's colleague, state Sen. Frank Ballance (D), the redistricting committee's other co-chairman, is also running for the House. Ballance, 59, planned to announce Saturday that he will run to succeed retiring Rep. Eva Clayton (D) in the majority-minority 1st district.
Clayton plans to join her longtime ally for his announcement in Rocky Mount. "I'm going to be waging a vigorous campaign," he said.
"I'd be delighted to serve with Frank. I like him and I respect him," Miller said.
The new 13th district, where Miller will run, is a Democratic stronghold. In fact, it is the party's strongest district outside of the state's two minority-based seats. Nearly 54 percent of voters in the 13th are registered Democrats, and just 29 percent are Republicans. Gov. Mike Easley (D) would have received 60 percent in the new 13th in last year's governor's race. Blacks make up 27 percent of the district.
Miller, 48, is catching heat from Tar Heel Republicans, who charge that he manipulated the remap process to draw a district exclusively to suit him. Nearly half of the district's voters live in Wake County, Miller's home base.
"He has used the power of his office to gerrymander a district for him to run in," said state GOP Chairman Bill Cobey.
The Democrat angrily disputed this accusation. "Anyone who was involved in redistricting knows that that was hardly the case," he said. "There are 50 state Senators and 120 members of the state House involved in redistricting. The idea that I was in a position to draw a designer district for myself is pretty ridiculous."
Indeed, the district, which runs along the North Carolina-Virginia border from Guilford to Wake County, does include new territory for Miller. "I'm going to need to go and make a lot of new friends," he pointed out.>
North Carolina has a new congressional district map. Again.
The state House, in a 64-43 vote, agreed Wednesday to minor changes to a congressional redistricting plan so that the population of each of the 13 districts is equal.
The changes move roughly 5,000 people in 13 precincts. In addition, the bill shifts two precincts in Pitt County to keep the home of Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones in the 3rd District.
Lawmakers decided to make the changes because of concerns that population deviations in the districts could lead to a court challenge. An earlier redistricting plan adopted last week had included deviations as great as 864 people from an ideal population of 619,178.
Despite the technical nature of the changes, some House Republicans urged their colleagues to vote against the bill.
Rep. Art Pope said the congressional map violates "traditional redistricting common sense."
Rep. Toby Fitch, D-Wilson, questioned why map drawers didn't make any changes to buttress the plan against a planned lawsuit by the NAACP, which claims a new 13th District should have been drawn to include a majority of minority residents.
But supporters pointed out the plan passed last week would stay in effect unless the latest bill was approved.>
Robbin' Hayes, Cont.
North Carolina's Democratic-controlled Legislature last week approved a new House map that protects every Member except Rep. Robin Hayes (R) and creates a Democratic stronghold tailor-made for state Sen. Brad Miller (D).
"We got a bad district, but it could have been worse," said Hayes.
Tar Heel Republicans now have a 7-5 edge in the delegation. Both parties say the new plan, which was approved after the state Senate endorsed a map drawn last month in the state House, would add one safe Democratic seat and could throw Hayes' 8th district, already a potentially competitive seat, into the tossup column.
The majority-minority district of black Rep. Eva Clayton (D), who is retiring, will remain virtually unchanged. State Sen. Frank Ballance (D), a co-chairman of that chamber's redistricting committee, may run to succeed Clayton.
The map slightly increases the Democratic performance from Hayes' current district. Gov. Mike Easley (D), for example, took 51 percent last year in Hayes' current district and would take 53 percent in the new seat, according to the state Legislature.
However, Hayes is concerned because his new district would be distinctly more urban. It would feature roughly 109,000 residents of Charlotte, up from zero in the current 8th district. "All of a sudden, I've got all these urban voters. My seniority on the Agriculture Committee doesn't help those folks a lot," he said.
It 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. Miller, the other co-chairman of the upper chamber's redistricting panel, will run there. The new 13th would have a black population of 27 percent.
The map now moves to the Justice Department for preclearance to make sure it meets the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.
Try as he might, Hayes has found few legal problems with the plan. "We don't see anything illegal about it," he said. "It's unethical. It's immoral, and it doesn't meet the political smell test. But no, it's not illegal."
With the 2001 legislative session plodding to an end, the surreal turned downright bizarre.
There was Rep. Thomas Wright, D-New Hanover, asking Senate Democrats to reject the congressional redistricting map that had his name at the top.
Instead, he wanted them to pass a more partisan plan designed to oust Republican Robin Hayes in the 8th District. That kind of plan could give Democrats a 7-6 advantage among the North Carolina delegation in the U.S. House.
And there were the Senate Democrats, with their 35-15 majority and ability to do as they please, politely saying no -- we'll take your plan, we're ready to play nice with the Republicans.
"It's their call," Wright said later, still trying to figure it all out.
What he didn't say publicly during a Senate committee meeting Wednesday was that House Democrats were now solidly lined up to vote for a map that would have put more Democratic voters into the 8th District.
"We had the votes," Wright said.
That same message had been conveyed from House Speaker Jim Black to Senate leader Marc Basnight the night before.
The votes had lined up only after a contentious debate in the House forced Democrats to adopt a more bipartisan plan with the help of 14 Republicans. In that chamber, Democrats have just a 62-58 majority.
But pressure from Washington Democrats -- most notably U.S. Rep. Mel Watt -- had helped get House Democrats in line.
Then the Senate balked.
Senate Democrats explained the decision by saying there had already been enough bitter, partisan battles in the Legislature this year. And they talked about how the longest legislative session in history could have gotten even longer had another attempt to redraw a congressional map gone spinning out of control.
But it was clear last week that Senate leaders ultimately wanted to just get rid of this political hot potato. Dissent in the ranks was bubbling over, and the best way to end it was to remove the rallying point.
This wasn't like them. Senate Democrats are known for settling their disagreements behind closed doors. Public challenges of the decisions of Basnight and his lieutenants are rare.
It's the other side of the building where House Republicans are known as the "raucous caucus," and where eight dissident Democrats have continually challenged leaders.
But on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Kay Hagan, D-Guilford, wasn't content with quietly casting a vote against the plan. Before voting, she let the world know her displeasure at a map that divided her county into three congressional districts. Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg, also voted against the plan.
Sen. Aaron Plyler, D-Union, a political veteran, voted for it but made clear in the earlier committee meeting that it looked pretty ugly to him.
The vote came after more than a week of closed-door meetings. And ultimately the Senate took a course -- accepting the House map -- that could have been taken a week earlier and probably avoided much of the rancor.
Despite all the talk that the map approved should result in an almost even split between Democrats and Republicans, with Hayes' district remaining a toss-up, ultimately those decisions are up to voters.
No mapmakers can predict how voters will react to sweeping events in an uncertain age, much less the personal successes or failures of individual candidates.
Even so, some Democrats in Washington certainly aren't happy with some Democrats in Raleigh.
Sometimes, though, the internal politics going on in a cramped meeting room can seem a lot more important than what a bunch of people several hundred miles away want.>
After more than a week of indecision, the state Senate approved a congressional redistricting map expected to protect Democratic and Republican incumbents in the U.S. House.
The Senate voted 34-13 in favor of the plan despite complaints from Democrats who said it split communities and by Republicans who said it protected incumbents at the expense of voters.
Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, said the map was largely the best lawmakers could do without unraveling coalitions and forcing further negotiations that would drag out the legislative session even longer.
"I would take it, to tinker with this plan in any way could pose a major risk to getting anything passed," Hoyle said.
Republicans have a 7-5 advantage in the U.S. House delegation from North Carolina. Overall, the Republicans have a 220-211 House majority.
Senate Democrats had talked of changing the numbers with the once-a-decade remap of congressional districts made to correspond to population shifts reflected in new U.S. Census data.
But in accepting a House plan that passed with 14 Republican votes in that chamber, they avoided more partisan wrangling.
The plan includes a new 13th District, created after the census showed the state had a 21 percent population increase. The district, largely Democratic, will stretch from Wake County along northern border counties into Guilford County.
The map's authors say it will likely keep Republicans in six of the seven districts they now control, while giving Democrats an advantage in six other districts.
The 8th District in the south-central portion of the state, now represented by Republican Robin Hayes, is considered a toss-up.
Hayes, a former state House member, was elected to Congress in 1998 after Democrat Bill Hefner retired. Registered voters in the current district are 51 percent Democratic; the new map boosts the percentage slightly to 51.6 percent.
For days, Democratic leaders in the Senate had debated whether to pursue a more partisan plan that would make Hayes' re-election more difficult.
Hayes spokesman Andrew Duke said the plan approved is far better that some other maps that had been considered but he still regretted that "communities of interest" in the district are being split.
"It continues to divide some communities, and it still has some of North Carolina's most rural communities now lumped in with the most urban community in North Carolina, which is Charlotte," Duke said.
Sen. Brad Miller, D-Wake, who headed the Senate committee responsible for congressional redistricting, said Senate Democrats ultimately decided there had been enough bitter partisan fights this year.
"We didn't want to pour more fuel on that fire," Miller said.
But in a strange twist, Rep. Thomas Wright, D-New Hanover, lobbied the Senate committee Wednesday to reject the House plan that he wrote and pursue a more partisan plan.
Wright urged Miller and his committee to "take a closer look" at the 8th District.
Also, House Speaker Jim Black told Senate leader Marc Basnight he had the votes to pass a more partisan Senate proposal in the House, a source close to the House Democratic leadership told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
But dissent among Senate Democrats led to the decision to accept the House map.
"You pull a string in one part of the state and someone yelps in another," Miller said.
Two Democrats - Sen. Kay Hagan of Guilford County and Sen. Dan Clodfelter of Mecklenburg County - voted against the plan. Hagan said she didn't want to see Guilford County divided among three districts.
Republicans also criticized Democratic leaders for failing to consider voters' interests in keeping communities together.
"Even a dog knows whether it's been stumbled over or knows whether it's been kicked. And the people of this state have been kicked and kicked hard," said Sen. Ham Horton, R- Forsyth.
The redistricting plan still must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department, and is expected to be the subject of lawsuits.
The plan is the last major piece of business before the General Assembly, but legislative leaders say it will still likely be next week before they adjourn for the year.>
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned back the first of two attempts by Utah to lay claim to North Carolina's new 13th congressional seat.
In a one-sentence ruling, the court rejected Utah's argument that the U.S. Census Bureau should have included overseas Mormon missionaries in its 2000 state population counts. Had the bureau done so, Utah would have been awarded a new congressional seat that instead went to North Carolina.
While Tar Heel leaders cheered Monday's decision, they cautioned that Utah still has another case pending before the high court. In the second case, Utah challenges the Census Bureau's long-standing practice of estimating the number of residents in households it could not contact.
"This is a good win for North Carolina," Attorney General Roy Cooper said after Monday's ruling. "Unfortunately, the fight is still not over. Today's victory means there's one down and one to go. ... We're hoping for a similar outcome in the second case."
A ruling on that case is not expected for at least two months.
Utah officials asserted Monday that their second case is the stronger of the two but did not hide their disappointment at losing the first.
"We are severely disappointed," said Raymond Hintze, Utah's chief deputy attorney general. "We spent hundreds of hours on this."
Utah had asked the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on both cases early next year. But with Monday's ruling, the court in essence decided that additional arguments are not needed - at least in the first case.
Without explanation, the high court simply affirmed a unanimous ruling against Utah delivered in April by a three-judge federal panel in Salt Lake City.
The 435 seats that make up the U.S. House of Representatives are redistributed once every decade to reflect population shifts.
Under a formula used by the Census Bureau, Utah would have received a fourth congressional seat if it had another 857 residents as of April 2000.
In conducting head counts, the government included overseas federal workers, including military personnel, with ties to a home state. But no one else temporarily living overseas, including corporate workers or religious missionaries, was tallied.
According to church records, 11,176 Mormon missionaries from Utah were working overseas as of April 2000 - while North Carolina could claim only about 100.
North Carolina officials told the three-judge panel that they have no philosophical objection to counting all overseas citizens but argued there is no practical way to do so at this point. Furthermore, North Carolina officials argued it would be patently unfair to count Mormon missionaries but not those of other religious faiths.
In its second case, Utah takes issue with the Census Bureau's practice of "hot-deck imputation." In situations where the bureau is unable to contact a household after several attempts, it assigns a count of residents based on a similar home in the neighborhood.
"That's not even scientific," Hintze said. "It's nothing but a rough guess."
In the 2000 census, the bureau relied on real resident counts for more than 99 percent of households.
But the relatively small number of estimates was sufficient to tip the scales in North Carolina's favor. The bureau wound up adding 32,457 residents to North Carolina's tally, but only 5,385 to Utah's count
Without the adjustment, Utah would have received the new congressional seat.
"We think that raw numbers are the best thing to do," Hintze said Monday.
Cooper countered that the practice in question has been used since 1940 and is not prohibited by law.
In a 2-1 decision, a panel of judges sided with North Carolina on Nov. 1. Utah immediately appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
In North Carolina, the General Assembly is currently struggling to agree on a new congressional map for use in next year's elections. A Supreme Court ruling in Utah's favor would inject more chaos in the process.
To date, all the maps considered by lawmakers have included 13 districts. State Sen. Brad Miller, a Raleigh Democrat who chairs the Senate redistricting committee, said there is no contingency plan for drawing 12 seats.
Based on advice from a "pretty confident" attorney general's office, "all the plans we've drawn have been 13-seat plans," Miller said.>
If only government functioned in strictly logical ways, a Cabarrus County family would have developed a perfect plan for congressional redistricting.
A state legislator on Tuesday introduced the plan, developed by the children of Smita and Dr. Robert Quinn of Concord.
The plan carves up the state simply, based on the principle that the person across the street should have the same congressman as you.
"This came to me as an exercise with mathematics and geography," N.C. Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, told the Senate redistricting committee. "It's got a really lovely purity to it."
Quinn, a Concord ear, nose and throat specialist, said he started talking to his children a few months ago about how to divide North Carolina into 13 congressional districts. They also discussed the "horse trading" that goes on with these political shifts.
"I was talking about it as a mathematical problem, saying, `If you wanted to make the areas as compact as possible, how could you add it up?'" he said. "It becomes a very complicated thing."
So they got a state map and measured all the borders between the 100 counties. He gave copies of the map to some local teachers, so students could create their own districts.
He named the project DUNCECAP, which stands for "Divide Up North Carolina EquallyóCompact Area Plan."
Hartsell was intrigued by the idea after receiving a fax from Quinn. Hartsell asked the General Assembly staff to double-check the numbers and put the map into an official bill form.
The state legislature has been debating redistricting for weeks. Lawmakers are required to create new districts every 10 years to reflect population changes identified in the U.S. Census.
Hartsell said he didn't expect the Quinn plan to gain approval in the heavily Democratic Senate.
The "Odell plan," as the Senate bill calls it, wouldn't pass political muster: It would have several incumbents, including U.S. Reps. Sue Myrick, a Republican, and Mel Watt, a Democrat, both of Charlotte, facing each other.
Democrats on the committee found themselves struggling to object without insulting the kids.
"We don't live in a world where we can simply use math and divide things up," said Sen. Fountain Odom, D-Mecklenburg. "Most of us, I think, wish we could just draw a map. "
Anna Griffin contributed to this article.
Eager for their party to retake control of the state's congressional delegation, Senate Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a plan that would boost the number of Democrats in the 8th District now represented by Republican Robin Hayes of Concord.
Democrats held the seat for 24 years before Hayes, a millionaire businessman and 1996 candidate for governor, edged out political newcomer Michael Taylor in 1998.
Hayes handily won a rematch last year, but Democrats see the chance to put the Democratic-leaning district firmly in their column. The Senate leadership favors a map that would cut much of Cabarrus and Stanly counties out of the 8th, boosting the share of Democratic voters from 51 percent as currently drawn to 54 percent.
"They're just trying to blatantly cut voters out of Cabarrus and Stanly counties and to put a large infusion of Charlotte voters into the 8th District," said Andrew Duke, a spokesman for Hayes.
House Republicans vowed Tuesday to fight the measure if it were sent to the House.
"If this comes back over to the House, it's going to do nothing but delay us," said state Rep. Ed McMahan of Charlotte, the Republican co-chairman of the House Congressional Redistricting Committee.
After meeting privately for more than an hour, Senate Democrats scrapped their plan to vote on a map Tuesday and put off more formal discussions until next week.
Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, a Manteo Democrat, said he wanted to give senators more time to work on proposals for the 8th and 13th districts. "We want to spend some time looking and we'll have conversations with the House counterparts," Basnight said.
The General Assembly is required to redraw district lines every 10 years, using data from the latest census, to comply with the constitutional requirement of one person, one vote. The state party in power often uses redistricting as a chance to draw district lines to its favor.
The North Carolina congressional delegation now has seven Republicans and five Democrats. With the state picking up a district as a result of population growth, the Democrats who control the General Assembly are looking for ways to tip the congressional delegation to a 7-6 Democratic majority. Legislators have drawn a new 13th District to favor Democratic candidates and have a goal of retaking the 8th District, represented for years by Democrat Bill Hefner.
The plan Senate Democrats released Tuesday would take Republican voters from counties Hayes won in 1998 -- Cabarrus, Union and Stanly -- and put them in the neighboring 9th District, where Republican Sue Myrick is the incumbent. The plan would give Myrick's district, where about 41 percent of the voters are registered Republicans, a district with about 46 percent Republican voter registration.
Republican voter registration in Hayes' district would drop from 32 percent to about 28 percent.
To make up for some of the population loss, the Senate Democrats' proposal splits off a chunk of Mecklenburg County and puts it in the 8th. The district does not now have any Mecklenburg County precincts, but the county would compose nearly 25 percent of the district, by population, under the Senate Democrats' proposal.
The Senate map would, in many ways, reverse concessions that Republicans won for Hayes in the state House. In their original map, House Democrats cut pieces of Stanly and Cabarrus counties out of Hayes' district and put them in the 6th District, represented by Republican Howard Coble.
A Hayes aide has been at the Legislative Building, talking to legislators about the district and distributing a package of letters from local politicians that say downtown Charlotte should not be in a district with rural counties.
McMahan argued that the House map already creates a strong Democratic district in the 13th District, and increases Democratic strength in the 2nd District, which is represented by Democrat Bob Etheridge of Lillington. The House already weakened the 8th District for Republicans by giving it a greater proportion of registered Democrats, he said.
Staff writer Lynn Bonner can be reached at 829-4821 or [email protected].