Explaining redistricting; new lines for District 104

by N.C. Rep. Ruth Samuelson

If you have seen the maps of the new U.S. Congressional and state legislative districts for North Carolina, you could come away with the impression they were little more than a tangled mess of lines, all converging at the intersection of partisan and politics.

The truth is, however, that the lines are only as tangled as the laws that govern redistricting in North Carolina.

Over the past 50 years, a complex array of statutes, court opinions and justice department guidelines has evolved to dictate the once-a-decade redistricting process. A 40-page document created by the General Assembly’s Research Division, titled “Legislator’s Guide to North Carolina Legislative and Congressional Redistricting,” lists no less than 34 state and federal court decisions North Carolina map drawers have to take into account. There also are clauses in the U.S. Constitution and the N.C. Constitution to be heeded, along with the Voting Rights Act and U.S. Justice Department guidelines.

The maps created by the legislature’s redistricting committee are a reflection of those opinions, clauses, statutes and guidelines, which, quite frankly, leave little room for the kind of gerrymandering map drawers have been accused of by detractors.

Redistricting leaders in the GOP-led state legislature have held an unprecedented five-dozen hearings on redistricting – both before and after the maps were drawn. They went to great lengths to incorporate input from those hearings into the maps, which were adopted last week by the full legislature.

Rather than ensuring victory by the politician or party already in power, the districts are actually more competitive than the ones created by the legislature in 2001 – a fact confirmed by the number crunching of a Wake Forest University political science professor. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in 10 of the 13 new Congressional districts, and in all 13 districts, registered Democrats plus unaffiliated voters are a majority.

I am confident these maps are fair to North Carolina voters and meet the requirements imposed on us by redistricting laws.

Under the new redistricting plan, there will be significant changes to the 104th state House district, which I represent. The district will migrate south, past N.C. 51, picking up Arboretum-area neighborhoods such as Raintree. It will drop some areas north of N.C. 51, including Myers Park and Quail Hollow.

If you are among those who live in the current 104th but not the future one, please know I still represent you in the state House, and I hope you will continue to contact me with your state government-related questions, opinions and needs. While the new district lines won’t take effect until the 2012 election, I hope those who are residents of future 104th neighborhoods will feel free to contact me as well, as I’m very interested in getting to know the concerns and needs of these areas.

If you are a Republican who happens to live in a House district that doesn’t have an incumbent Republican in it, please consider running. It is part of my job as campaign chairman of the GOP House caucus to recruit qualified candidates for office.  So please feel free to contact me if you are interested in seeking a state House seat.

I can say from experience that maneuvering through the many mazes of legislative procedures, rules and statutes – like those that govern the redistricting process – can be tedious, but serving our community in the state House has been a deeply rewarding experience!

N.C. Rep. Ruth Samuelson represents N.C. House of Representatives District 104, which covers portions of south Charlotte. The House Majority Whip, she currently is serving her third term in the House. She represented District 5 on the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners from 2000 to 2004. Send thoughts on this topic to ­editor@­thecharlotteweekly.com.

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