Almost two dozen speakers voiced their views about the state’s upcoming redistricting of congressional and legislative districts to state lawmakers during a public hearing in Elizabeth City Tuesday evening.
State Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, led a delegation of several General Assembly members during a public hearing on redistricting at the K. E. White Center at Elizabeth City State University. Daniel is co-chairman of the Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee.
State Rep Howard Hunter, D-Hertford, state Rep. Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck, and state Rep. Ed Goodwin, R-Chowan, all attended Tuesday’s hearing, which is one of 13 being held across the state to gather public input on how the General Assembly should redraw electoral districts. No public hearings are scheduled after the maps are drawn.
With new census data every 10 years, the General Assembly goes through a redistricting process to draw districts for Congress and the General Assembly.
Because of the state’s population growth, North Carolina will gain a new congressional seat.
Some speakers called for additional public hearings after the maps are redrawn while others asked for an end to gerrymandering that protects incumbent officeholders.
Others asked lawmakers not to split counties when new maps are drawn, while several more, including a handful of Perquimans County residents, asked that their congressional and legislative districts remain as they are.
Hertford resident Shelly Jackson said she feared that “our rural district could be gerrymandered” into an urban area.
“We must protect the rural vote from the larger urban areas who want a slice of rural areas to overpower the rural vote,” Jackson said. “There would be no rural voice and eventually no vote.’’
Carol Terryberry, vice chair of the Pasquotank County Republican Party, thanked the legislators for “banning the use of racial and political data” in the redistricting process.
“This will help prevent the gerrymandering that violates the equal protection clause” of the U.S. Constitution, Terryberry said. “This strict adherence that you are abiding by and the respect for the N.C. Constitution’s full county provision is another strong step to create fair and legal districts. It is also a strong step in improving the process of not dividing counties.”
Dorsey Harris, chair of the Currituck County Democratic Party, asked that the General Assembly conduct public hearings after the maps are redrawn and establish a website with redistricting information, including draft maps.
“We call on the joint redistricting committee to offer a robust public hearing schedule after the maps are released to the public,” Harris said. “North Carolinians know their communities best and can provide the most useful and important feedback to legislators after viewing the maps. Other states have set up model websites for redistricting.”
Hanig said many of the comments he has heard from across the state reflect a desire to keep counties whole and that rural and urban each have their own common interests.
“It’s the same across the state: ‘leave us alone,’” Hanig said. “If we have a long and crazy district, people are not going to get represented properly.”
Hunter said he was impressed with the number of people who attended Tuesday’s hearing, which was around 75.
“You heard the voices of the people: ‘make it fair and keep the east together,’” Hunter said. “We heard them say, ‘just draw the maps fairly.’”