Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
Both of Macon County’s representatives in the General Assembly gave their stamp of approval on the new district maps. Since judges found the old maps to be unconstitutional, the newly redrawn maps are awaiting the final approval of the judges who ordered they be redrawn ahead of the upcoming election.
The new maps passed both the House and the Senate, although some Democrats were still opposed to the process. While the process to redraw the voting districts in the state were touted as “transparent” and was broadcast live, some Democrats believe that as long as legislators were involved in the process, it could not be 100 percent fair.
“The maps for the new NC House Districts have passed the Senate and are now law. Barring any further action from the courts, these will be the new districts for 2020,” said Brian Turner, NC House 116 Representative. Turner serves the Asheville area.
“I wholeheartedly disagree with the base maps that were used and the process for finalizing them which is why I voted against them. Yes, we had a live video and audio feed, but transparency does not mean fair maps or a good process.Anyone who tuned in could see legislators picking and choosing precincts, something I vehemently oppose. When Rep. Susan C. Fisher and I were asked to make changes, we deferred to staff because we did not want to be a part of any map manipulation. I will not participate in drawing maps now or in the future and I will not vote in favor of any maps that are drawn by the people who would directly benefit from that drawing.”
While some Democrats like Turner opposed the process, not necessarily the new maps, the majority of Democrats voted alongside Republicans in approving the new state districts.
Waynesville Democrat Rep. Joe Sam Queen was among those who voted against the maps due to being opposed to the process as well as concerns over districts which border South Carolina.
“You don’t have to be very astute to know what we are doing in this bill is partisan gerrymandering in the benefit of a member,” said Queen.
The original court order required changes to be made to N.C. House districts in 28 counties and N.C. Senate districts in 21 counties. The new maps didn’t reach the far western part of the state, but stopped in Buncombe County. House Districts 114, 115 and 116 will see a change, barring any further court action. House District 114 will go from covering most of the Asheville city limits to only having 27 percent of the population.
Senate Districts 48 and 49, which border Senate District 50 currently held by Senator Jim Davis, will also see changes.
Common Cause North Carolina, who was responsible for the ruling which led to maps being ordered to be redrawn released a statement following the vote to approve the maps.
“The court’s ruling against partisan gerrymandering was a historic victory for the people of North Carolina, setting a clear requirement for drawing districts completely free from partisan politics and with total transparency,” Brent Laurenz, Common Cause NC’s deputy director, said in the statement. “We look forward to the next steps in this ongoing remedial process, which includes the court thoroughly reviewing the new districts to ensure that they fully comply with the ruling.”
Rep. Kevin Corbin has been a vocal supporter of the redistricting process and has supported legislation in the past that would call for independent redistricting to end gerrymandering in the state once and for all.