About 50 people packed two small rooms at UNCA for an April 30 public hearing on redistricting.
The state legislature is in the process of redrawing the lines for N.C. House, Senate and Congressional districts to correspond with 2010 census numbers. At the UNCA event, Western North Carolina members of the House Redistricting Committee Tim Moffitt, Susan Fisher and Ray Rapp heard from several residents who urged them to keep partisanship out of the process.
“The current lines are nothing but gerrymandered districts by Democrats,” asserted a Candler resident. “The Republicans should do better.”
Noting that Republicans are also capable of gerrymandering, Marshall resident Robert Carr commented that “asking legislators to redistrict themselves is like asking a fox to guard a hen house.” He and several other residents urged the House members to support legislation that would lay the responsibility for redistricting with a nonpartisan citizen commission for the next session in 2020.
Meanwhile, the majority of speakers seemed to agree with Asheville resident Justin Wight, who asserted that breaking up the11th Congressional District would be “unacceptable.” According to an article published in the Asheville Citizen-Times last week, Republican lawmakers are considering placing Asheville in the Republican-leaning 10th District, which could hamper the the re-election of Democrat Rep. Heath Shuler.
“Ripping Buncombe County in half with Asheville out of it is a terrible idea,” declared Wight, who went on to maintain that “Democrats didn’t gerrymander to the point of preventing Republicans from taking over both the house and senate this year.”
Kathleen Balogh, president of the league of women voters of North Carolina, noted that the redistricting process “gets to the heart of our democracy” and urged lawmakers to make it as “transparent and responsive as possible.”
May 15 is the target date for producing new district maps. After that, a new round of public hearings will be scheduled to get feedback on the specific proposals.
Photos by Jonathan Welch