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Legislature Sets Local Commission Voting Districts

The North Carolina General Assembly has finalized new legislative and congressional voting districts. That was expected. But there was a surprise late in the process. Republican lawmakers also set boundaries for Mecklenburg County commission districts, as well as those in Buncombe and Guilford counties. That legislation was approved Thursday afternoon. Redistricting Committee Member Defends Legislative Involvement WFAE's Lisa Miller spoke to Larry Shaheen. He's one of the Republican members of Mecklenburg County 's redistricting committee that urged state lawmakers to step in. He says the local process was going fine until a few weeks ago when it was suggested that a new, fourth redistricting map go to commissioners for consideration. More. Senate Democrats expected to be outflanked in redistricting for legislative and Congressional seats. But this move caught them by surprise. "For the first time down here, we've decided that the leadership of the Senate can swoop in and redistrict someone's county that their representatives don't even know what's going on," Senate minority leader Martin Nesbitt said Thursday at the capitol. The state has redrawn boundaries for Mecklenburg commissioners before. But commission Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts said this may be the first time the legislature has stepped in before county commissioners even got to discuss proposed maps developed by a local redistricting committee. "We have not even as a county commission looked at the suggestions of the committee," Roberts said. "I know they voted on four options they were going to bring to us this coming Tuesday, and I had not even looked at those four options." Roberts said she didn't even know there were concerns about those four options until she found out the state was taking over the process. She says that killed any chance for public input. "Everything that we do is in the public eye because we're serving the public, we're using taxpayer money, and we believe that they have a right to see the process," Roberts said. "This maneuver totally circumvented all of that." But Republican County Commissioner Neil Cooksey said taking the process out of local hands and into those of GOP lawmakers was necessary. Republicans on the local committee got the legislature involved because of concerns about one of the four options for new districts. It would've significantly altered districts 5 and 6 in southern Mecklenburg County, currently held by Republicans Cooksey and Bill James. For example, the Myers Park area would've been grouped with Mint Hill and Matthews. Cooksey said since there are five Democratic county commissioners and four Republican ones, the Democrats could've chosen that map in a partisan vote. "So rather than have that plan be railroaded through the county commission, we took another tack," Cooksey said. When asked if now it's just being railroaded through the state legislature, he replied, "That's politics." Republicans on the local redistricting committee came up with the map approved by lawmakers Thursday. It largely resembles the current boundaries. Commission chairwoman Jennifer Roberts said the move wasn't necessary. She says she would've voted against the map that upset Republicans.