The redistricting of Guilford County has become an exercise in blind partisanship, outright hypocrisy and good, old-fashioned ineptitude in which our communities and the people who live in them rank dead last on the list of priorities.
Always there is some partisanship in the annual redistricting pageant that takes place after every 10-year Census, as incumbents look to preserve their seats and possibly gain an edge for their parties. As distasteful as it is, politics play a big role in the process.
But there are rules to follow here: minority votes must not be suppressed, communities must remain cohesive when possible, radical — or reactionary — changes are to be avoided.
And in the past month all of these considerations have been tossed out the window.
The Guilford County GOP’s initial map, submitted earlier this month, draws Democratic commissioners Kirk Perkins and Carolyn Coleman into the same district, ensuring that just one of them will survive the next election. It also double-bunks sitting commissioners Skip Alston and Bruce Davis in an attempt to shrink African- American representation on the commission.
Alston’s map, submitted a week later, may be even worse. It introduced the so-called “High Point Hook” in District 2 that cuts through the center of High Point, bifurcating the city, leaving districts 1 and 6 on either side. The implied intention is to save Democratic incumbents and forge a permanent blue majority on commission.
Other locally generated plans became moot when the NC General Assembly got involved, repurposing an old bill that had stalled in the House, one which had nothing whatsoever to do with redistricting, gutting the content and replacing it with a new, GOP-backed plan which passed the Senate and then the House.
In a surreal moment at a redistricting hearing last week, held after this fiat from above, folks from Conservatives for Guilford County — proponents of small government one and all — argued against partisan gerrymandering and the sort of “bad” redistricting as proposed by Alston.
Said C4GC’s Joanne Wittenborn, “Bad can be measured by rambling district lines, distorted neighborhood patterns, and obvious selectivity to ensure a predetermined outcome of elections.”
Which, of course, is exactly what we got. Low points of the new map include a District 2 that runs along the southern border of the county through Pleasant Garden and parts of Jamestown, buttonhooks up through High Point then back through Jamestown into the southwest section of Greensboro. It looks like Cape Cod.
The proposed map needs to be approved by the US Department of Justice before becoming the law of the land.
What’s remarkable here is that of all the possible redistricting plans that adhere to the rules of the game, only the very worst ones — those that blatantly gerrymander to ensure political dominance, that disregard communities as whole entities, that have no basis in the people’s best interests — are the ones under consideration.
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