Four districts in Guilford County are currently involved in a dispute against gerrymandering in North Carolina.
House Districts 57, 58, 60, and Senate District 28 are all facing changes created by the new North Carolina voting maps, which were drawn in response to pressure surrounding the 2011 map. The 2011 plans were thrown out for being illegal racial gerrymanders, and some believe that the new maps are not a fair exchange.
“These changes will directly affect who represents them and the balance of power in the state,” said Representative Cecil Brockman, a Democrat who represents District 60. “People should want free and fair elections where their vote actually matters, as opposed to a system where the scales are tipped in one party’s favor.”
These districts are a part of 28 districts that were to be redesigned after an August 2016 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that found North Carolina’s mapping to be unconstitutional.
“Some voters will potentially have a new representative or senator,” Brockman said. “Guilford County will continue to have the same number of representatives and senators overall.”
The finding that the maps were unconstitutional was primarily based around racial discrimination. A panel including various U.S. District Court judges said that the North Carolina GOP used race as “the predominant factor” in drawing the districts, directly violating the Voting Rights Act.
“The districts have been declared unconstitutional based on racial gerrymandering, and they seemed to double-down on that and make it more African-American,” said Representative Pricey Harrison of District 57 in an interview with News and Record. Harrison’s district, which is 51 percent African-American in the current version of the district maps, is proposed to become 61 percent African-American. “You can’t think they did not know what they were doing.”
Republican representatives, however, believe that the demand to redraw districts has more to do with the Democratic Party’s power. Currently, the GOP holds the majority of 74 seats in the House and 35 in the Senate.
“It’s easy to understand why gerrymandering has been the boogeyman since Democrats were swept out of power in 2010,” said Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger during a floor speech. “It’s easier to blame the maps, blame a process — blame anything, really — then it is to take responsibility for losing touch with the politics of voters in 75 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.”
The state legislature was required to submit the new map proposals to a panel of three federal judges by Sept. 1. The judges are set to look at the new map, and if they find that the maps are still unconstitutional, they will take over the redrawing process themselves. A new system is to be set in place by the 2018 elections.
“Obviously this is still a major issue with these maps only recently having been ruled unconstitutional,” said Brockman. “It means we need to look carefully here in North Carolina and all over the country to make sure black people are not being robbed of their voting power.”