North Carolinians Give Lawmakers An Earful About Congressional Districts
North Carolinians are attacking and defending the state’s congressional districts. Lawmakers held public hearings statewide Monday in case they have to redraw the maps by Friday. A federal court has ordered them to, but they’re asking the U.S. Supreme Court to put that on hold.
About 50 people crowded into the hearing at Central Piedmont Community College near uptown. Clarence Leverette of Mooresville criticized how Republican state lawmakers changed the congressional districts in 2011.
"They have meticulously divided our state along racial lines," he says. "So from an African-American’s perspective, we have lost because we’ve been packed into these districts."
That’s the heart of the federal court case. A three-judge panel ruled lawmakers put too much emphasis on racial quotas when they increased the number of African-Americans in the 1st and 12th congressional districts, the second of which includes Charlotte. The judges struck them down about a week ago and gave lawmakers two weeks to redraw them.
But former Republican North Carolina Congressman Robin Hayes points out the U.S. Justice Department cleared the maps.
"The state Supreme Court has signed off on the maps," Hayes says. "If we allow a three-judge panel to overturn what the Republicans and the Democrats have put together in the General Assembly, chaos will result."
Democrats would disagree with that assessment. Still, it’s why North Carolina’s attorneys are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to put the redrawing on hold. If not, several speakers voiced concerns about ballots already cast by mail. In Asheville, a retired veteran pointed out that’s how many in the Armed Forces vote from overseas.
At CPCC, Iredell County Democratic Party chair Gene Millsaps responded.
"The fact that some absentee ballots have been requested and submitted does not outweigh the damage done by holding a third election on an unconstitutional map," he says.
Several speakers in Raleigh and Charlotte called for an independent redistricting system. Currently, it’s a partisan process driven by whoever controls the legislature after each Census.
At CPCC, Harry Taylor put it this way:
"What is patriotic about rigging elections so that you can hold power?" he asked. "What does that say about your patriotism that the only way you think you can lead a state is by cheating people out of their right to vote?"
State lawmakers have until Friday to redraw the maps, unless the U.S. Supreme Court steps in.