LUMBERTON — All four members of Robeson County’s state legislative delegation will see changes in their districts if preliminary maps recently released are approved.
Only 30 proposed maps for districts covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 have been released. Included in these districts, which are given special consideration because of historical discrimination, are House Districts 47 and 48, currently held by Democrats Charles Graham and Garland Pierce, and Senate District 13, now held by Democrat Michael Walters.
A map for House District 46, which is currently held by G.L. Pridgen, a Republican, is among those expected to be released early next month.
Redistricting for both state and congressional districts must be done every 10 years by the state General Assembly to provide for population changes recorded by the most recent census. This round of redistricting is controlled by Republicans, the majority party in both the state House and Senate for the first time since the last 1800s. The governor has no veto power or say in how maps are drawn.
“I think this (redistricting) is one of the most important things we have to do,” Pierce, a member of the House Redistricting Committee, told The Robesonian late last week. “You want to get it right … It’s a fairness thing.”
Pierce, who is black, appears to be the most affected of Robeson County’s state legislators if the proposed maps are approved. Under the proposal, District 48, which now includes parts of Robeson, Hoke and Scotland counties, would expand into Richmond County.
“This will be a four-county district. It will be large and lose quite a bit of Robeson County,” Pierce said.
The district would have a majority, or near majority, minority population.
“My only advantage presently is that I have a relationship with the three counties (Robeson, Scotland and Hoke),” Pierce said. “But in the future, that could be a wide-open district.”
Pierce said that any redistricting plan will almost certainly keep District 47 — which currently includes just Robeson County and is represented by Graham, an American Indian — intact. District 47 has traditionally been a majority American Indian district.
“Graham has a real sweet district,” Pierce said, adding that the proposed District 47 would also take in a small part of Hoke County.
Graham told The Robesonian that he expects there will be some changes in his district, but declined to be specific. He said it is still too early in the process to determine how the final district will look and how it will affect him as a legislator.
Pridgen, whose District 46 currently includes Robeson, Hoke and Scotland counties, said he is not sure what the proposed map for his district will look like. He did say, however, from information he can glean from maps that have already been released, it appears his district would lose precincts in East Lumberton and Godwin Heights.
“I don’t know what their thoughts are,” Pridgen said in reference to the House Redistricting Committee. “I don’t want to give up any of my Lumberton area. I’d like to have more around Lumberton, not give up what is already there.
“I have no idea at this time what will happen. I’m just waiting. I might be pushed into an area where there are more Republicans.”
On the Senate side, the proposed map removes Hoke County from District 13 and replaces it with Columbus County.
“It’s hard to comment on a partial piece of the whole puzzle,” Walters, a member of the Senate’s Redistricting Committee, told The Robesonian. “We’re all anxiously waiting to see the other maps and how all the pieces fit together. It’s still early in the process.”
Walters said that the remainder of the proposed maps — including congressional maps — will be released in early July. The House and Senate redistricting committees will meet in mid-July to discuss and vote on the maps, he said.
After district maps are approved, they must be a cleared by the federal government to ensure that the new maps comply with the Voting Rights Act and other state and federal laws and court rulings.
Both Pierce and Walters said that they expect any redistricting plan that is approved to be challenged in the courts.
“If history is any indication, that will happen,” Walters said.
Staff writer Bob Shiles can be reached at (910) 272-6117 or email@example.com