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Census Delay Could Pose Problems for Fair NC Redistricting

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Legislative maps of areas such as Charlotte are changing because of a surge in population growth. (Adobe Stock)
Legislative maps of areas such as Charlotte are changing because of a surge in population growth. (Adobe Stock)
 By Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC - Producer, Contact
February 26, 2021

RALEIGH, N.C. - Every ten years, states use the census to redraw congressional and state legislative districts, but delays in the release of 2020 census data because of the pandemic have some experts worried that could lead to extreme gerrymandering and a torrent of litigation.

North Carolina Republican lawmakers are slated to begin redrawing maps this fall, only a few months before the state's primaries in March of 2022. Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said unfairly drawn maps deny fair political representation to diverse populations.

"There is an awareness here in the state," said Phillips. "I think even more so than many other places, about the problem we have with drawing maps. Maybe not everybody across our state knows exactly what gerrymandering is, but they do know that something is not right."

Phillips added there have been more than 50 legal interventions related to gerrymandering along racial or party lines within the last few decades. Some watchdog groups are calling for postponing candidate filing in the 2022 primary to allow enough time for a proper redistricting process.

Phillips said when redistricting gets underway, lawmakers should be transparent and allow for more public input. He said it's likely North Carolina, with its growing and increasingly diverse population, will get a 14th Congressional seat next year.

"And that we will also see pressure from the legislature having to create more legislative seats out of the urban areas, which have grown in North Carolina, and fewer seats coming from the rural areas," said Phillips. "Where again, the majority party mostly holds those seats."

North Carolina state law bans the governor from being able to veto redistricting maps.

Phillips also noted that, nationwide, this will be the first redistricting to occur after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a portion of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Now, districts with a history of racial discrimination no longer need preclearance from the U.S. Justice Department to make voting changes.

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