District lines appraised

Published 12:42 am Saturday, July 23, 2011

Beaufort County’s two congressmen indicated they were reasonably pleased with a congressional redistricting map approved Friday by a state Senate committee.

How pleased the congressmen are is a question of degrees.

“It’s progress,” said U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.

Butterfield objected to an earlier plan rolled out by lawmakers in the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly.

The first plan carved roughly 80,000 minority voters from Butterfield’s 1st Congressional District, placing them in the 3rd Congressional District represented by U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., Butterfield said.

This removal likely defied the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, he indicated.

The map endorsed Friday by the Senate redistricting committee appeared to restore most of the affected voters to the 1st District, Butterfield related, cautioning his analysis of the blueprint was ongoing.

“It’s moving in the right direction,” the Wilson resident continued. “The counties have not been completely restored that were removed and so I’m trying to do some critical analysis right now to see if the portions that have been restored are sufficient to meet the requirements of law.”

The latest map would bring about some local changes.
At present, Butterfield represents all of Beaufort County south of the Pamlico River, minus the majority-Republican Gilead precinct, plus Washington’s Wards 1, 2 and 3, said Anita Bullock Branch, Beaufort County’s deputy elections director.

Under the new plan, Butterfield would be left with three precincts in Beaufort County, all of them in the city of Washington: P.S. Jones-Ward 3, Wards 1 and Ward 2.

“I really would like to get back all of the precincts in Beaufort County that I represent,” he said.

This fresh map would leave the remainder of the county to Jones, who represents Washington east of Market Street and areas north of the Pamlico.

“I think from the standpoint of the 3rd District, I’m pleased,” Jones said, adding he’s lost only three of the counties he has served.

The Farmville resident made it clear the reshaped district wouldn’t change the way he serves Beaufort County.

“I’ve got one of the best staffs, both in the (Greenville) district office and in Washington (D.C.), in the whole nation,” Jones said.

A congressional office is usually judged by its constituent services, he pointed out.

“I don’t see that changing,” Jones commented of those services.

He did observe the congressional map has to be “precleared” by the U.S. Department of Justice. Preclearance is required because of the Voting Rights Act.

“Based on what I know today, I’d be very pleased if this ends up being the final version of the 3rd District,” Jones concluded.

The full Legislature hasn’t approved final redistricting maps for state House, Senate and congressional seats. A special session was called recently with redistricting as its main focus, and leaders have said they hope to finish the process by the end of this month.

State lawmakers take up redistricting, the redrawing of legislative and congressional lines, every 10 years following the U.S. census.

This retooling is supposed to follow population shifts, but has been used to shore up election chances for Democrats and Republicans.