07/11/11 — County officials think maps will pass

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County officials think maps will pass

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 11, 2011 1:46 PM

The chairmen of Wayne County's Democratic and Republican parties agree that the proposed voting district lines for the Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners are acceptable and should pass muster at the local and federal levels.

County commissioners will hold a public hearing on the new county district lines Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. in their meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex, 224 E. Walnut St.

Once approved, the maps will be sent to the U.S. Justice Department for its review. A plan cannot be implemented until pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department.

"After having learned the somewhat confining rules that have to be met for the result to be legal, I believe the commissioners worked in a fair manner to get the best result for Wayne County," said Democratic Party Chairman Stephanie Kornegay of Mount Olive. "The proposed districts seem to meet all criteria."

The mandate for minority districts makes drawing the districts more difficult, said GOP Chairman Bob Jackson, who added that he, too, thinks the local lines are fine.

Jackson said that he looks forward to the day when politics turn a blind eye to where skin color is concerned and the drawing of district lines.

If looked at one way it would simply be a matter of drawing lines to have six equal-size districts, he said. However, he said that he knows that does not work. In some cases the way the districts are drawn do not seem to provide as much sense of neighborhood -- for example the redrawn District 5.

Jackson said he personally has no problems with it.

District 5 currently extends from the Wayne-Duplin county line south and east of Mount Olive encompassing the eastern part of the county as far north as Wayne Memorial Drive.

The new District 5 would take a portion of eastern District 1, extending north to Davis Mill Road to just east of the Fremont town limit.

Also, the new District 6 would cede some areas of Goldsboro to District 3, but take up a portion east of Dudley that is now in District 5.

The two previous public meetings on redistricting attracted less 24 people combined.

"I hope people will show up at the public hearing and express themselves," he said.

However, Jackson said he expects the hearing probably will be poorly attended. There are no plans to have a large GOP turnout for the hearing, he said.

Not unexpectedly, the party chairmen are not as happy with the proposed state and congressional district maps. The president of the state NAACP has called the proposed congressional map "partisan gerrymandering."

Jackson said he had seen the congressional districts maps, but had been told they will change again.

"They (state lawmakers) couldn't say what those changes could be," he said. "I don't think I have seen the state House lines yet and I know they are having some public input."

He said he needed some time to see the state maps before commenting.

"I know they have to draw them a certain way, but it sure would be nice if Wayne County could be in one congressional district," he said. "If you have seen the current one there is about 20 percent of the west side of Wayne County that would go to the 2nd District and the rest of Wayne County would be the 3rd District and none would be in the 1st District.

Ms. Kornegay said she is concerned that the congressional lines will treat Wayne County "unfairly."

"Currently our state is represented by seven Democrats and six Republicans in Washington, I think a fair representation of the population," Ms. Kornegay said. "The new lines that I have seen will blatantly skew areas to Republicans. Take Wayne County for example, the Democratic representative (W.K. Butterfield) is being drawn out."

Along with questions of gerrymandering, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, state NAACP president, expressed concerns that five counties covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act are being removed from the 1st Congressional District.

"In the heavily African-American area of eastern North Carolina, this district was developed intentionally to overcome years of disenfranchisement and voter exclusion," Barber said in a press release.

The five counties removed from district are Wayne, Gates, Washington, Beaufort and Craven.

This change dilutes the voting power of these Section 5 counties to elect a congressional representative of their choice, NAACP officials said.

Copies of the maps of the proposed districts appear on the News-Argus website www.newsagus.com and the Wayne County website at www.waynegov.com.

Copies of the maps are also posted at the following locations: Wayne County Board of Education Central Office, 2001 E. Royall Ave.; Steele Memorial Library, 111 N. Chestnut Street, Mount Olive; Pikeville Town Hall, 100 W. School St., Pikeville; Wayne County Public Library, 1001 E. Ash St.; Wayne County Manager's Office, Wayne County Courthouse Annex; Wayne County Planning Office, Jeffreys Building, 134 N. John St.; wall of the fourth floor atrium in the Wayne County Courthouse annex.