Since April 2011, the Joint House and Senate Redistricting Committee has held 37 public hearings in 36 counties across North Carolina. Hundreds of North Carolinians have been given the opportunity to have their voices heard at the public hearings and online via the General Assembly website.
The Joint Redistricting Committee will continue public hearings on Thursday, June 23, 2011 in light of the proposed state House and Senate maps that were rolled out Friday, June 21, 2011 revealing the “Voting Rights Act” (“VRA”) districts. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed in an effort to prevent voting discrimination based on race, color, or membership in a minority group, as guaranteed by the Fifteenth Amendment.
The June 23rd Committee meeting will be held in Wake County and the hearing will be available via video conference in Guilford, Mecklenburg, Pitt, Hertford, Cumberland and New Hanover Counties.
In a joint statement, Senator Bob Rucho (R – Mecklenburg), Chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee and Representative David Lewis (R- Harnett), Chair of the House Redistricting Committee explained, “We have decided to focus this public hearing on proposed legislative Voting Rights Act districts and four other proposed districts. We have chosen this option because of the importance of minority voting rights. Moreover, the decisions by the North Carolina Supreme Court in Stephenson v. Bartlett, 355 N.C. 354 (2002) (“Stephenson I”), and Stephenson v. Bartlett, 357 N.C. 301 (2003) (“Stephenson II”), require that VRA districts be created before other legislative districts.”
In their joint statement, Rucho and Lewis share that public comment has made an impression and influenced their decisions. They also make it clear that the 2011 redistricting process will be a stark contrast to past redistricting outcomes, especially in creating new and additional African American districts. The 2011 House plan consists of 24 majority African American districts. At this time, only 18 African American members serve in the state House. The 2011 Senate plan is made up of nine majority African American districts – currently only seven African Americans are serving in the state Senate.
Rucho and Lewis have indicated that the full maps will be available on July 1, 2011 and the last public hearing will be held on July 7, 2011. The state House and Senate will reconvene on July 13, 2011 to begin the last stages of the redistricting process.
Unlike most bills, redistricting legislation is not subject to the governor’s veto. The bill, however, cannot be implemented until it has received preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.