Redistricting hearings are a sham

by | Aug 24, 2017 | Editor's Blog, Redistricting | 7 comments

The public hearings on the new legislative maps bought for the GOP with taxpayer money are little more than a ruse. The Republicans in the House and Senate are going to pass the maps without any real discussion and without considering alternative maps. It’s so clear, that according to people in Lee County, Republican Representative John Sauls has already sent out letters to his prospective new constituents. He wouldn’t have done that if the maps were in question.

At the public hearings, legislators dismiss criticism out of hand. They’ve got veto proof majorities and most incumbents are in extremely safe districts. They’re not really interested in input. They’re interested in saying they had public hearings.  So, really, this whole process is a waste of time and taxpayer money.

Yesterday, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice released its own maps. They’re more favorable to Democrats so they won’t get serious consideration from the Republicans who control the legislature. However, they do show that alternative maps are possible and set the stage for another challenge to the districts the GOP bought.

The districts are certainly drawn to give Republicans maximum representation and to reduce competition in elections. That said, some of what Republicans say is true. Democrats have basically ceded rural America, giving the GOP an advantage in district configurations here and across the country. Democrats might be able to garner majorities in statewide and national elections, but they win with large margins in highly concentrated areas.

To win back majorities, Democrats need a two-front strategy. They should contest the extreme gerrymandering brought about by professional mapmakers to rig elections. They also need to broaden their appeal to build a bigger tent. If they want to win legislative majorities in states like North Carolina or Virginia, they need to redefine themselves with an economic message that has broad appeal. Right now, most rural residents see them as a party consumed with pushing an agenda of social change while ignoring the huge hurdles facing working-class families outside of major urban areas. For Democrats to win control of legislative bodies, that perception must change.


  1. Tom

    A majority of the people in North Carolina live in 15 counties. The majority of the counties in NC carried by Hillary Clinton were rural, Not certain Democrats are “ceding” either rural or urban.

    • L'Homme Armé has a map showing the county-by-county breakdown. Based on that map Clinton carried the following counties:

      Counties with big cities: Buncombe (Asheville), Mecklenburg (Charlotte), Forsyth (Winston-Salem), Guilford (Greensboro), Durham (Durham), Wake (Raleigh), Cumberland (Fayetteville),

      Counties with college towns: Watauga (Boone/ASU), Orange (Chapel Hill/UNC), Pitt (ECU),

      Other: Chatham, Anson, Scotland, Hoke, Wilson, Edgecombe, Vance, Warren, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford, Bertie

      With the exception of Chatham, all of the “other” counties have a high percentage of citizens who are black. I haven’t looked at all the counties she didn’t carry to see if they are the counties with the highest percentage of black citizens in the state, but all in all I’d say there’s a clear trend there. In any case, Tom’s statement that “The majority of counties in NC carried by Hillary Clinton were rural” is correct.

  2. Mark V. Case

    It is evident that districts will have to be drawn by a non-partisan group. Elections are made up for the people- therefore should be made up by the people. If we could get our board of election stabilized without the House and Senate trying to get control of them- I think the board of election should be the one’s to make the maps with a mandate to make them competitive and to keep county integrity by not splitting them.
    Another way to decide would be the actual counties! We have 100 counties- We have 100 State Reps. (NO SPLITTING COUNTIES). Determining senate members we combine counties adjacent to each other to get the number we want for representation. We should never split counties!

    • MooseR

      I disagree. A “county” is not a standardized unit. It would be grossly unfair if Mecklenburg County with a population of just over 1 million people had the same representation as Tyrrell County with just over 4,000 people! I agree that counties should not be split unless absolutely necessary, but several small counties should be combined to create districts. PEOPLE are represented in the legislature, not parcels of land.

    • L'Homme Armé

      What you are suggesting was declared unconstitutional in Reynolds v. Sims. Per that case, all state-level legislative bodies much have districts whose population is of equal size.

      Also, in practice what you’re suggesting could lead to outlandish examples of gerrymandering. Remember that per the federal Constitution state boundaries can not be changed unless the legislatures of all the affects states agree to it. No such requirement exists at the state level; the state can alter state boundaries (including splitting or merging counties) at will. This means that if we went to a county-based system, there would be nothing to prevent the General Assembly from making every single square mile with a Republican majority its own county, while combining as many Democratic square miles as possible into one humongous county. Granted, it’s unlikely that the GA would go quite that far, but it’s not hard to imagine small-scale shenanigans such as combining the Triangle into a single county (with some B.S. explanation given such as “making it easier for the region to act as a cohesive political unit”) or splitting geographically large, Republican counties like Brunswick and Pender in two.

  3. TY Thompson

    Hard for the hearings not to be a sham when so many attendees were there to scream, rant, vent, etc., instead of making reasoned arguments. I should know, as I stood there to argue against my small, rural county being attached to a much larger urban county, I was sandwiched between two crazies waiting their turn at the mike.. I’m still not sure I I got all of their spittle off me, All that humor aside, perhaps you didn’t notice that more than one Rep found themselves double-bunked with another Rep or that there are new districts where the Dem double-bunked with a Rep had the advantage (Senate 3). Or districts where they were obviously careful not to double-bunk Dems (Senate 20 & 22). It’s a bit unrealistic to expect the map to not to advantage the majority party. That’s the way it’s been for two hundred years…in virtually every state in the Union. And as you pointed out, the Reps have made the rural parts of the state their stronghold and while the Dem strongholds (large urban areas are growing), they still comprise less than 25% of the state population. By that measure, an argument can be made that Dems might be over represented in the in the General Assembly.

    • Mooser

      TY, I don’t know where you got your numbers, but you’re off the mark. The seven largest counties (all won by Clinton) are Meck, Wake, Guilford, Forsyth, Cumberland, Durham, and Buncombe, and according to the census bureau’s website, those 7 counties are home to 3,900,000 people, which is almost 40% of the state’s population. If you add in the other counties that she won, which were mentioned in an above comment (she also won Washington and Pasquotank Counties), that brings it up to almost 48% of the population. NC is increasingly becoming an urban and suburban state. Democrats are over represented? You must be joking! This state is almost evenly divided politically, as the last statewide elections demonstrated. There is no way that a 35 – 15 split in the Senate and 74 – 46 in the House is representative of this state. When was the last statewide election where Republicans got 70% of the vote (or 61%, for that matter)?

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