Court-appointed expert tackles redistricting issue

Published 8:47 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Safe, for now.

A redistricting plan drafted and made public Monday by a court-appointed special master would keep Beaufort County in a new state House district and a new state Senate district included in a redistricting plan approved this past summer by the North Carolina General Assembly.

Nathaniel Persily, the special master appointed by a federal court to help draw some state legislative districts in North Carolina, filed his draft state House and Senate plans. Persily, a Stanford University law professor, also asked for formal responses from Republican legislative leaders who drew the original boundaries and from voters who were successful in suing over the Republican-draw maps by Friday. The federal judges want Persily’s final redistricting plan by Dec. 1.

Those judges have asserted that four districts redrawn last summer by Republican legislators continued to preserve illegal racial bias, according to an Associated Press report. Persily said he redrew compact replacements for those four districts, and he reworked several districts in and around Raleigh and Charlotte because of likely state constitutional problems.

“Accompanying the final plan will be a report providing greater detail as to the plan’s compliance with applicable law, a more complete explanation of the rationale for the Special Master’s Plan, and evaluation of the plan according to the metrics required by the Court’s order,” reads a section of Persily’s draft plan.

Redistricting issues, including redistricting reform, have been in the spotlight in recent months. Democracy North Carolina has issued a report on redistricting reform in the Southeast.

“In the first half of 2017, lawmakers in seven out of nine Southeastern states filed redistricting reform bills, totaling approximately 25 proposals,” reads the organization’s website.

“North Carolina’s history of gerrymandering and lawmakers’ current impasse on how to reform the redistricting process reflect the tensions at play region-wide,” said Sunila Chilukuri, Democracy North Carolina’s lead researcher on the report. “Similarly, the interest in reform in our state parallels renewed activism on the issue across the Southeast. The Southeast — a region long criticized for our political history — has a chance to lead the way on this important issue.”

In August, Republican state Sen. Phil Berger, president pro tempore of the state Senate, advised Democrats they should be more concerned with geography than gerrymandering after they criticized new district maps. Berger said Democrats should focus on their party’s platform instead of the partisan leaning of legislative districts. Berger does not believe those new maps are a product partisan gerrymandering.

Meanwhile under that redistricting plan approved by the state legislature earlier this year, Beaufort County and northern Craven County would be combined to form District 79 in the N.C. House of Representatives.

Also, Beaufort County would be removed from the current state Senate District 1, represented by Sen. Bill Cook, a Beaufort County Republican, and placed into a District 3, which would include Martin, Bertie, Warren, Vance and Northampton counties. Democrat Erica Smith-Ingram represents the current District 3, which includes Bertie, Chowan, Edgecombe, Hertford, Martin, Tyrrell and Washington counties.

Cook has said he will not seek re-election next year.

The proposed House District 79, if approved, would have no incumbent representative.

Currently, part of Beaufort County is in the 6th District, represented by Rep. Beverly Boswell, a Republican who lives in Dare County. Another part of Beaufort County is in the 3rd District, represented by Rep. Michael Speciale, a Republican from Craven County.

Under the proposed plan, the 6th District, which now includes a part of Beaufort County and all of Hyde, Washington and Dare counties, would include all of Dare, Currituck, Hyde and Washington counties. The proposed plan would change the 3rd District from including parts of Beaufort County and Craven County (southern areas of each county) and all of Pamlico County to all the southern section of Craven County and all of Pamlico County.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike