The latest congressional district proposal from the General Assembly strips more of Buncombe County from its longtime home in the 11th – currently represented by Democrat Heath Shuler — and puts it in the 10th – currently represented by Republican Patrick McHenry.
Released by the first Republican-controlled legislature in 140 years, the original plan drew a firestorm of criticism from local residents who charged that it was a partisan attempt to help GOP candidates get elected in both districts by diluting Asheville’s reliably Democratic voters. Critics also charged that the move disrespected the area’s geographic, cultural and economic ties to the mountains, inappropriately putting Asheville in to the same district as Gastonia and the suburbs of Charlotte.
At a July 7 public hearing on the matter, those critics came out in force, slamming the proposal as “insane,” “biased” and “cynical,” and urging GOP leaders to redraw the maps to put Buncombe back in the 11th District. Even Buncombe Republican Rep.Tim Moffitt said he would join with his Democratic colleagues from the local delegation — Reps. Patsy Keever and Susan Fisher — in opposing the plan.
But it doesn’t appear that the criticism has made an impact on the two Republican redistricting chairs, Sen. Bob Rucho and Rep. David Lewis, who released the latest draft of maps July 19. The newest maps place additional Buncombe County precincts into the 10th district. According to figures by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County, the original proposal kept 108,672 Buncombe residents in the 11th and placed 129,646 in the 10th. The latest keeps 88,162 Buncombe residents in the 11th and puts 150,156 in the 10th.
The latest proposal also puts all of Polk County back in to the 11th.
In a joint statement, Sen. Rucho and Rep. Lewis defended the split of Buncombe County as fair, legal and necessary, writing that urban counties are “best represented by multiple members of Congress. Moreover, creating multiple districts within an urban county makes it less likely that congressional districts in 2020 will experience the significant population shifts that make the 2001 plan unbalanced.”