1st Congressional District map under fire

Published 11:15 am Monday, July 18, 2011

RALEIGH – The ink was not yet dry on North Carolina’s congressional redistricting map before state lawmakers were back to tweak their proposal.

According statewide media reports, the proposed boundaries of the First Congressional District are concerning to G.K. Butterfield, a Wilson Democrat that represents the district, which includes the Roanoke-Chowan area.

According to a story posted on the Charlotte Observer’s website, critics say the proposed map dilutes the voting strengths of African Americans in eastern North Carolina.

As reported by this newspaper earlier this month, the four counties of the R-C area (Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton) are among the 23 counties represented by Butterfield. 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.

The redistricting proposal moves Gates County from the First to the Third 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.

Meanwhile, Butterfield’s district will expand westward to include portions of Franklin, Granville and Wake counties. There, the Congressman will gain a net increase of 44,000 voting-age African Americans. However, the plan would move 58,000 black voters currently in the First District into the Third District.

That plan has met with criticism, including that of Butterfield. Critics say the maps, as currently proposed, are in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, one designed to prevent the dilution of African-American votes.

However, if the map is redrawn, it could impact other districts as well.

“We are looking at the 1st District and trying to make adjustments,” Rucho told the Charlotte Observer last week. “What we’re looking at is attempting to get it reasonably designed so we can get pre-clearance (from the U.S. Justice Department).”

Under the Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Justice Department must approve or pre-clear any election-related changes. Republican lawmakers have said they may also ask a federal court to approve their plans.

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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