Congressional lines redrawn

Published 9:41 pm Friday, July 1, 2011

RALEIGH – If the plan holds true, the Thad Eure Bridge spanning the Chowan River between Hertford and Gates counties will mark one of the dividing lines between two Congressional districts.

On Friday, officials with the North Carolina General Assembly released their proposed Congressional redistricting plan. While changes were made across the state in this process, one conducted every 10 years, the proposal has the Roanoke-Chowan area covering two Congressional districts rather than the traditional one.

Currently, the four counties of the R-C area (Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton) are among the 23 counties represented in the United States Congress by G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat.

Other counties currently in the 1st District include all or portions of Beaufort, Chowan, Craven, Edgecombe, Granville, Greene, Halifax, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pitt, Vance, Warren, Washington, Wayne and Wilson.

According to the redistricting plan, Gates will move from the 1st to the 3rd District, now represented by Walter B. Jones, a Republican. Butterfield would also lose all of Beaufort, Craven, Washington and Wayne counties as well as portions of Chowan, Perquimans and Pasquotank counties to Rep. Jones.

Butterfield’s district will expand westward to include portions of Franklin, Granville and Wake counties.

The State’s First Congressional District was originally drawn in 1992 as a majority black district.  It was established by the State to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  Under the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Strickland v. Bartlett, 129 U.S. 1231 (2009), the state is now obligated to draw majority black districts with true majority black voting age population.  Under the 2010 Census, the current version of the First District does not contain a majority black voting age population.

According to the information released Friday by the Redistricting Committees, the current First District is substantially under-populated by over 97,500 people.  Thus, in order to comply with “one person one vote,” over 97,500 people must be added to create a new First District.

“We met with Congressman Butterfield to discuss these issues,” said State Senator Bob Rucho and State Representative David Lewis, both Republicans who head up the Redistricting Committee in their respective branch of the General Assembly, in a joint press release issued Friday.

“Congressman Butterfield acknowledged that the legal deficiencies of the existing First District could be addressed through the addition of either the minority community located in Wake County or the minority community residing in Durham County,” the press release continued. “Congressman Butterfield believed that including Wake County in his district would give him the opportunity to represent the communities reflected by Shaw University and St. Augustine College.  Between these two options, Congressman Butterfield advised us that he preferred the addition to his district of the minority population in Wake County, as opposed to the minority population in Durham County.

By adding population from Wake County, Rucho and Lewis said they have brought the First District into compliance with “one person, one vote.”  Because African Americans represent a high percentage of the population added to the First District from Wake County, they have also been able to re-establish Congressman Butterfield’s district as a true majority black district under the Strickland case.

“After we had adopted Congressman Butterfield’s preference, and showed a map of our proposal to him, he expressed concern about the withdrawal of his district from Craven and Wayne counties,” Rucho and Lewis said.  “Given our decision to add the minority community in Wake County to our proposed First District, the retention of populations in Wayne and Craven would result in the over-population of the First District.  We believe that the benefits of adding the black community in Wake County outweighs any negative impacts.  Moreover, by replacing these counties with the community in Wake County, we were also able to create a district that was based upon a more compact minority population.”

The redistricting plan shows the 1st District with a total population of 733,499 – of which 379,926 (51.8%) are black and 285,668 (38.9%) are white. The District leans heavily towards voters registered as Democrats (307,459 or 67.8%).

In the 3rd Congressional District, the total population (733,499) exactly matches that of District 1. However, the 3rd District is majority white (501,411 or 68.4% compared to less than 25 percent {175,468} black). Still, Democrats (227,563 or 48.7%) outnumber Republicans (138,248 or 29.6%) in the District. There are 101,033 (21.6%) unaffiliated voters registered in District 3.

The Joint House and Senate Redistricting Committee will hold a public hearing concerning the Congressional redistricting from 3-9 p.m. on Thursday, July 7 at several locations statewide, including Roanoke-Chowan Community College (Room 126 of the Jernigan Building).

Each speaker is limited to five (5) minutes. Speakers are encouraged to submit their oral comments in writing. Persons proposing plans are encouraged to provide maps and any supporting data.

Questions about the public hearings may be directed to Erika Churchill or Kelly Quick at 919-733-2578. Persons desiring to submit written comments to be included in the public record may send those comments to:

Redistricting Committee

300 N. Salisbury Street

Suite 545 Legislative Office Building

Raleigh, NC 27603

They can also register online, five days in advance of the hearing, at Registration for speaking will begin: 1) At the hearing site: 1 hour prior to the convening of the hearing, and will close prior to the beginning of the hearing. 2) On-line: 5 days in advance of the hearing and will close 24 hours in advance of the hearing. There are limited slots for on-line sign-up.

Speakers will be called according to the order of registration. If a speaker is not present when called, the speaker will be skipped at that time. Time permitting at the end of all registered speakers, those skipped will be allowed to speak.

The video conference will be streamed live on the NCGA website. The link will be posted under News & Information on the front page of the NCGA website on the day of the public hearing.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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