Senator Erica Smith comments on redistricting legislation

Published 7:49 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Democratic Senator Erica D. Smith of Northampton County, who also represents Tyrrell in the North Carolina General Assembly, commented recently on redistricting. Senator Smith is a member of the Senate Redistricting Committee.

“While they have received criticism from GOP leaders, these maps are a step toward providing all North Carolinians equal voices in our democracy,” Senator Smith stated in an online newsletter.

She was referring to the newly drawn North Carolina House and Senate district maps, proposed by Stanford law professor Nathaniel Persily, that are being reviewed by a panel of three federal judges.

The proposed maps alter 28 of the General Assembly’s 170 total districts, mostly in the counties in or around the cities of Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and Fayetteville.

Persily contends that “there was no ‘racial targeting,'” in the drawing of the new maps and that he focused on “race-neutral criteria” like creating more compact districts and minimizing precincts split between districts, and presented data to prove it,” the senator reported.

The “plan is inoculated against the kind of attack that the legislative defendants seek to lodge with respect to racial predominance,” Persily wrote. It eliminates “all of the constitutional infirmities the court has identified.”

In 2016 the three-judge panel found that 28 legislative districts in seven counties are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. A court order, along with new district lines, could come any day.

Changing districts pose unique problems for legislative candidates, who under the state constitution have to live in the district for a year prior to the election Congressional candidates, will have no residency requirement.

Representative Bob Steinburg (R-Chowan) has said he will seek a Senate seat if the district lines finally agreed to will allow him to run.

Another panel of three federal judges on January 9 struck down North Carolina’s congressional district. The ruling leaves the boundaries for the state’s 13 congressional districts uncertain ahead of the February 12 start of candidate filing, adding more uncertainty for candidates, elections officials, and voters.