Year’s Top Stories – #9

Published 10:50 am Monday, January 2, 2012

Change was the name of the game in Raleigh where moving the lines of the Congressional and state district map —with the Roanoke-Chowan area insight—was on the minds of state leaders.

With the results of the 2010 census and the political power switch up in January, state officials sought to bring change to the state’s Congressional, NC House and NC Senate district maps.

In early summer, the North Carolina Redistricting Committee released its first proposal, one that included a major change in two Districts within the Roanoke-Chowan area counties.

The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald’s June 23 edition reported the initial proposal moved Bertie County out of District 5 (with Annie Mobley representing Bertie, Hertford, Gates and Perquimans) and into the same district as Halifax County. It also moved Northampton County from District 27 (with Michael Wray of Gaston representing Northampton, Warren and Vance), grouping it with Hertford, Gates and a portion of Pasquotank counties.

A few days later, the committee released yet another proposal this time pairing Northampton and Halifax counties to create one District and Bertie, Hertford, Gates and a small portion of Pasquotank to form another.

Another proposal affected Senate District 4 represented by Sen. Ed Jones of Enfield. District 4 is comprised of Bertie, Chowan, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton and Perquimans counties.

The redistricting would separate Sen. Ed Jones from the R-C region as Halifax County is paired with Warren and Vance along with portions of Nash and Wilson counties. The proposal also called for the creation of an eight-county Senate District, to include Bertie, Hertford and Northampton along with Edgecombe, Martin, Chowan, Washington and Tyrrell.

In response to the proposals, a Redistricting Public Hearing (one of seven held in North Carolina) was held June 23 at Roanoke-Chowan Community College and drew much opposition from area citizens as did other residents within the state affected by the proposed redistricting.

The June 25 edition of the News-Herald reported local leaders and citizens spoke out against what they saw were segregated and unfair changes to the districts.

All seven hearings held state-wide were linked in a video conference format, which was moderated from Raleigh by Senate Redistricting Chairman Bob Rucho, a Mecklenburg County Republican.

The proposed new lines for the House and Senate districts showed only those areas of the state that fall under the Voting Rights Act (VRA, otherwise known as districts where minority races comprise the majority of the population). The maps only revealed 22 percent of the state’s 170 House and Senate districts. Rucho said it is required by law to release those maps first.

The lack of a complete state map drew negative responses from many of the speakers at RCCC.

Local NAACP leaders spoke about the incomplete maps and the importance of fair representation.

Carl White, president of the Hertford County Chapter of the NAACP, said the proposed districts are not being developed in appropriate compliance with the Voting Rights Act. That same sentiment was expressed by others, white and black, across the state who believed the redistricting plans will lead to lawsuits.

Anthony Clark, Chair of the Northampton County Democratic Party, said the party believed the proposed new districts “dilutes minority voting strength and will negatively impact the ability of those individuals who currently represent us as a region.”

NC House District 5 would become District 2, comprised of Bertie, Hertford, Gates and a portion of Pasquotank County. District 2 has a combined population of 82,099 (54.48% black and 41.53% white). The District is also heavily Democratic with 70.17 percent registered to that party. Unaffiliated voters comprise 16.10 percent of the District while Republicans make up 13.62 percent.

Meanwhile, House District 27 would lose Warren and Vance under the proposal and gain Halifax County to form District 7. That new two-county District boasts a population of 76,790 of which 54.70 percent are black and 39.79 percent are white. District 7 would be another Democratic stronghold where 74.52 percent are registered to that party. Unaffiliated voters and Republicans respectively comprise 13.57 and 11.84 percent of the population.

The plan creates a new Senate District 3 – Northampton, Edgecombe, Hertford, Bertie, Martin, Chowan, Washington and Tyrrell counties. The total population of that eight-county District is 181,535 (53.74% black and 42.72% white). Democrats dominate the proposed District (73.81%). Republicans comprise 13.94 percent of the registered voters while 12.20 percent are listed as Unaffiliated.

Gates County is not included in the proposed Senate District 3 map, apparently being aligned with the “finger” counties as well as Dare County, which were yet to be released.

In the July 2 edition of the News-Herald, Congressional District 1 (represented by Democratic Congressman G.K. Butterfield) was in the spotlight as the General Assembly released their redistricting plans for the state’s Congressional districts.

The proposal had the Roanoke-Chowan area covering two districts. Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton are among 23 counties in the 1st Congressional District. 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 that plan, Gates would 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.

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

The State’s 1st 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 2010 Census, the current version of the First District does not contain a majority black voting age population.

Representatives from the Redistricting Committee met Butterfield to discuss the issue. Butterfield acknowledged the legal deficiencies could be addressed through the addition of either the minority community located in Wake County or the minority community residing in Durham County.

Butterfield said the addition to his district of the minority population in Wake County for the opportunity to represent the communities reflected by Shaw University and St. Augustine College.

By adding population from Wake County, the First District is brought 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, the re-establishment of Butterfield’s district as a true majority black district under the Strickland case.

However, Butterfield expressed concern about the withdrawal of his district from Craven and Wayne counties.

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%).

Gates County once again was placed into the 1st Congressional District…or at least partially.

The News-Herald reported in its July 26 edition, the latest Congressional district plan, released July 19, has a portion of Gates County back into the 1st District after concerns were lodged by the NAACP, Butterfield and others.

The 1st District portion of the county resembles a piece of a jigsaw puzzle – basically the central area starting at its southern border with Hertford and Chowan counties and heading north towards US 158. The proposed map (one without reference points) appears to show 1st District area of the county to include Gatesville and an area north and south of US 158 from just east of Roduco to the Sunbury area. The county’s entire US 13 corridor, all of its northern sections along the NC-VA border and a large area of eastern Gates County – to include most of its border with Chowan County and all portions touching Perquimans, Pasquotank and Camden counties – are in the 3rd District.

Meanwhile, the new borders of the entire 1st District have been modified. It now includes all of Bertie, Hertford, Northampton, Halifax and Warren along with portions of Pasquotank, Perquimans, Chowan, Washington, Martin, Edgecombe, Nash, Franklin, Vance, Granville, Durham, Wilson, Greene, Pitt, Wayne, Lenoir and Craven counties along with the puzzle piece of Gates County.

The proposed portion of the 1st District extended to part of Wake County, but that was removed from the map.

The new map also modified the demographics of the area. Both the original map, released July 1, and the newly drawn borders both noted the 1st District’s total population at 733,499.

The new map shows the District is comprised of 393,742 (or 53.68% of the overall population) black citizens while 274,840 (37.47%) are white. The original map revealed the District included 379,926 (51.8%) black citizens while 285,668 (38.9%) were white.


The newly drawn borders also increases the number of registered Democrats in the 1st District – now at 324,742 (69.8%) as compared to 307,459 (67.8%) with the original map.


The newly carved out 1st District contains 73,851 (15.87%) unaffiliated voters and 66,203 (14.23%) registered Republicans.


Meanwhile, the 3rd District remains majority white – 545,180 (74.33%) compared to 136,488 black citizens (representing 18.61% of the total population). As far as political affiliation, the 3rd District includes 195,864 (43.13%) registered Democrats; 140,939 (31.03%) Republicans and 116,564 (25.67%) unaffiliated voters.