THE RALEIGH REPORT
August 21, 2017
Redistricting is in full swing and moving along faster than expected. Republicans released their new, proposed NC House and Senate district maps on Saturday. Legislators will start debating and voting on amendments on Tuesday at 12pm, the same day the statewide public hearings were scheduled at 4pm. The final vote must be taken before September 1. Given the schedule, it will be very difficult for legislators to give serious consideration to any public comments.
NC Redistricting Process
For people new to this issue, we are re-drawing lines now because the U.S. Supreme Court in a 9 to 0 decision held that our current lines are unconstitutional and must be re-drawn in time for the 2018 elections. The court found Republicans used race as the predominant factor in drawing 28 districts in the 2011 redistricting process. They packed minority voters into a few districts intentionally to diminish the influence of these voters in other districts and to benefit Republican candidates.
To view the new proposed maps, select the link at the General Assembly home page: www.ncleg.net. These maps were drawn using rules based on recommendations from the three-judge panel that found the 2011 maps to be unconstitutional. Note that HD 56, the district I hold, loses Hillsborough Township and gains Chapel Hill precincts. HD 50, the district held by Rep. Graig Meyer combines the rest of Orange County with Caswell County and loses all its Durham precincts.
Legislators will convene on Tuesday, at 12 pm to begin debating the maps. Democrats may offer some amendments; but Republicans have the votes in both the House and Senate to pass the version posted. Both the House and the Senate will vote on and send the maps to the three-judge panel by September 1.
The three-judge panel will review and either accept or reject the General Assembly's maps. If they reject, they could appoint an independent expert to draw the maps or they could adopt maps submitted by the groups that in court successfully challenged the original maps.
Once the courts finalize the maps, House and Senate members will be able to see if they will be in the same district or in a new district and possibly running against another incumbent member. For 1/3 of North Carolina, nothing will change. Much of western North Carolina will not change, but almost every major urban county and almost all of eastern North Carolina will have new districts.
NC Law and County Groupings
North Carolina's redistricting is based on the concept of "clusters" or "county groupings." No other state has the county cluster requirement. The North Carolina Supreme Court mandated the groupings in order to be as consistent as possible with our state constitutional requirement not to split counties during redistricting while also complying with the Federal Voting Rights Act and the requirement that districts be roughly equal in population. These federal laws make it impossible not to split counties.
Toward that end every county in the state is placed into a one, two, three or multi-county "cluster" or "county grouping." If you follow the rules set out by the NC Supreme Court there is only one optimal outcome in how counties are grouped. Of course, there are lots of ways to draw districts within these county groupings.
Based on the 2010 state population of 9.56 million people, each of the 120 NC House districts must include roughly 80,000 people until the next decennial census in 2020. The process starts by identifying counties that have one or more perfect House districts of roughly 80,000 people. For example, Wake is a one county “group” with 11 House districts in it. Wake is not paired with other counties because each district in the county falls perfectly within the required population range to comply with federal law.
Most counties’ population numbers do not fall within the ideal population range so they get grouped with neighboring counties until their population does fit. Thus, Nash and Franklin are paired to create a two county: two district cluster. We also end up with a few "monster clusters" like the seven county-clusters of Lee, Harnett, Johnston, Sampson, Bladen, Wayne, and Greene that produces seven House districts.
Two districts in Durham County must be redrawn. Rep. Graig Meyer’s district includes both Durham and Orange Counties, so it’s likely he and I will both have some changes made in our districts. The sample maps being circulated show Chapel Hill and Carrboro as one district and the rest of Orange County linked with Caswell County; but that is only one option.
This is complicated, but it is important. Fair districts give everyone the chance to make a difference with their vote. Fair districts in a balanced state like North Carolina keep any one party from getting too powerful. Stay tuned.
How to Engage
It's tough to keep track of what is happening. Here are some ways to stay involved.
1. Call me or my legislative assistant Gina Insko at 919-733-7208 or email me at Inskola@ncleg.net with How can I get involved in the subject line.
2. Follow us on Twitter at @verlainsko and Facebook at Verla Insko.
3. Visit ncleg.net where you can see bills, listen to session, and see daily calendars.
4. Help us spread the word on social media or by forwarding this newsletter and other alerts or key news items.
As always, thank you for your support of my work in Raleigh as your representative. Please let me know of your position on issues, your suggestions for legislation and your requests for help.