Redistricting according to common sense — and the NC State Constitution
local vocal by Keith Brown
I am writing as a resident of Guilford County North Carolina who would like to see a change in the make up of our state senators who represent Guilford County in the North Carolina Senate. Right now our county is divided by four senate seats: District 26, Sen. Phil Berger; District 27, Sen. Don Vaughan; District 28 Sen. Gladys Robinson; and District 33 Sen. Stan Bingham.
The North Carolina State Constitution states that “no county shall be divided in the formation of a senate district.” In Guilford County we have not one but two senators who break this state constitutional amendment in Sen. Phil Berger from Rockingham County and Sen. Stan Bingham from Davidson County.
According to the new 2010 census numbers, the ideal population for each Senate district is 190,710. Sen. Berger’s total population in district in 2000 was 168,953, and the 2010 numbers are 196,857 with a change of 16.5 percent. In Sen. Berger’s district for 2010 with the ideal population being 190,710, he is plus 6,147 which is 3.2 percent above the number to hit. This number is very significant because in regards to other senators from Guilford County, Sen. Vaughan’s census numbers for an ideal population came in way under the threshold at 182,024 with a negative of -8,686 at -4.6 percent.
The North Carolina General Assembly website, in regards to redistricting, states that division of counties must be minimized and in those cluster of counties where we do see crossover, as in Guilford County, it should group them and divide the clusters into compact single-member districts, crossing county lines within the cluster as little as possible. In regards to this statement, the state constitution has been ignored.
Let’s take a closer look at the two senators who do cross over into Guilford County with the numbers taken from the NCGA web site on redistricting from 2003 analysis.
Sen. Bingham had 21,635 Guilford County residents, 12.81 percent of his district. He had 5.14 percent of Guilford County residents.
Sen. Berger had 77,025 Guilford County residents, which is 45.59 percent of his district, and 18.29 percent of Guilford County residents.
Why are these two numbers so significant? Because as we see what was written from the NCGA website and stated above, “crossing county lines within the cluster as little as possible.” If you add both senators’ Guilford Cunty numbers, we see they represent 23.43 precent of Guilford County. This is not even close to crossing county lines “as little as possible.”
As a Guilford County resident it would be to the benefit of the redistricting committee to take the state constitution at its word and not cross county lines, but as we have seen from the past and also the Voting Rights Act, that is not possible.
What is possible is to take the Guilford County residents in Sen. Berger’s district and put them in either District 27 or District 28. Does Sen. Stan Bingham need to be in Guilford County at all, with 5.14 percent of our population? I would say no.
We have seen in the past where the gerrymandering of these districts has really taken a turn for the worse because of noncompetition and party affiliation as part of the process. This is seen where both Sen. Bingham and Sen. Berger take a huge population of Republican voters out of Guilford County and keep their districts safe for them. This in turn gives the advantage to the Democratic Party in Guilford County to keep a strong hold on the other two Senate seats. In the 2010 election, Sen. Vaughan won by a margin o20 percent, and Sen, Robinson won a split three-way race where percentages broke down 47 to 38 to 13 — but the 13 percent was Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis, a Democrat running as an independent on the ballot for reasons to complex to go into here.
In Guilford County, it would be beneficial to have these Republicans vote in these senate elections — a 60-40 split is not a cmpetitive race, and as it stands Republicans don’t have a chance. And when a Democrat can jjst walk into the seat, it is bad for the voters and residents as well.
Hopefully we will see a change for the better because in the past it has not been fair or constitutional. I’ll end with a quote from Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger in the Triad Business Journal: “What you will see is the Republican legislature follow the law.”
I hope he will follow the law and not cross county lines for Senate seats in Guilford County, and if he does cross into Guilford County, it should be as little as possible — not at the 23.43 percent that is the status quo.
Keith Brown maintains the Triad Watch blog at triadwatch.blogspot.com. He lives in High Point.