LUMBERTON — Becki Gray, the vice president for outreach at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, says that politicians during the state’s redistricting process often forget that no district in the state belongs to any one legislator.
“Districts are drawn for the purpose of maintaining the constitutional principle of one man, one vote,” she told about 40 members of the Lumberton Rotary Club on Tuesday. “Redistricting is probably the most partisan and political thing that state legislators do.”
Gray, who provides information, consultation, and publications to elected officials, government staff and other decision makers involved in public policy, was the keynote speaker at the Rotary’s weekly meeting at the Village Station restaurant. She labeled her presentation, “Behind the Scene look at One-Man One-Vote,” as a brief introduction to the redistricting process.
Gray said that redistricting, which takes place every 10 years to adjust districts to account for changes in state population, was this year, for the first time in 120 years, headed by Republicans, the party that now controls both houses of the state General Assembly. The result, she said, is that new maps drawn for the 120 state House districts, 50 state Senate districts and 13 state congressional districts favor Republicans.
“The party controlling the redistricting process will always try to create districts that will favor their party in future elections,” Gray said.
According to Gray, since the last district maps were drawn 10 years ago the state’s population has increased about 18.5 percent, to 9.5 million people. The population has migrated toward urban centers of the state and away from rural areas, she said.
“That trend is not unusual,” she said. “Urban areas are where jobs and job growth are located.”
To ensure equal representation, Gray said the new state House districts had to be drawn to each include about 79,462 people, state Senate districts 190,710 people, and congressional districts 710,000 people. House and Senate districts can deviate by 5 percent, but there is no deviation permitted in congressional districts, she said.
The maps that have been approved by the General Assembly must still be reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department to ensure they meet federal Voting Rights Act regulations. Gray said. The Voting Rights Act was passed in the 1960s under President Lyndon Johnson to ensure that blacks were being equally represented in the voting process.
Gov. Beverly Perdue has no ability to veto the new maps.
“What districts we get from the state legislators are what we have for the next 10 years,” Gray said.
Rotary members briefly reviewed the new maps that include Robeson County. The county is included in four state House districts, one state Senate district and two congressional districts.
The biggest change for Robeson County is in the congressional districts. All but a sliver of the county — the St. Pauls, Parkton, Lumber Bridge areas — has been removed from the 7th Congressional District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Democrat from Lumberton, and placed in the 8th Congressional District. The 8th Congressional District is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, also a Democrat.
McIntyre has said he would seek re-election in District 7 even though his home is now in District 8.
— Staff writer Bob Shiles can be reached at (910) 272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.