A lesser evil

Published 12:01 am Saturday, July 23, 2011

The good news is a congressional redistricting map approved Friday by a Senate panel disenfranchises fewer black voters than its predecessor.

The bad news is the map still disenfranchises black voters.

Map-drawers in the Legislature redrew the original plan, reportedly to reflect concerns voiced by U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., of Wilson.

Butterfield represents a portion of Beaufort County in the U.S. House.

Butterfield was elected in the majority-black 1st Congressional District.

Initially, when lawmakers in the Republican-led General Assembly altered the district’s lines, they removed about 80,000 blacks from this territory, Butterfield said.

The latest blueprint, given a nod Friday by the Senate redistricting committee, restores most of these minority voters to the 1st District, the congressman said.

“And I am pleased with that,” said Butterfield, who had said the earlier plan “offends the Voting Rights Act.”

Widely seen as one of the greatest victories of the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was designed to right old wrongs by protecting minorities’ voting rights.

Statistically speaking, racial polarization still exists in at least some of the counties represented by Butterfield, but the law dictates that minority voters in counties covered by Section 5 of the act should have a reasonable chance of electing the candidate of their choice.

The GOP-favored map endorsed by the committee on Friday is less offensive than the one that predated it, but the final plan must not result in a reversal of hard-fought civil-rights gains, no matter how small that reversal might be.