This post is an open letter to our North Carolina State legislators regarding Guilford County redistricting in regards to our state senators that in the past has been unfair and completely unconstitutional. This is a message about how redistricting needs to change for voters in Guilford County and beyond. Below the fold is the letter and some links to where you can tell your representatives how you feel. If you would like to copy and paste to send to our elected leaders please do. If you want to tweak it a bit to include your own angle and/or forward to other North Carlolina voters, please do.
I would also like to thank Yes! Weekly CLICKHERE page 23 and Brian Clarey for allowing me to be a part of their weekly paper with a scaled down version of this post.
Dear North Carolina Legislators,
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 with the redistricting of 2011 upon us. Right now our county is divided by four senate seats. The districts and senators are: #26 Senator Phil Berger, #27 Don Vaughan, #28 Senator Gladys Robinson, and #33 Senator Stan Bingham. Let's take a look at what our North Carolina State Constitution has to say about redistricting of North Carolina Senate Seats.
Article II Section 3.
Senate districts; apportionment of Senators.
The Senators shall be elected from districts. The General Assembly, at the first regular session convening after the return of every decennial census of population taken by order of Congress, shall revise the senate districts and the apportionment of Senators among those districts, subject to the following requirements:
(1) Each Senator shall represent, as nearly as may be, an equal number of inhabitants, the number of inhabitants that each Senator represents being determined for this purpose by dividing the population of the district that he represents by the number of Senators apportioned to that district;
(2) Each senate district shall at all times consist of contiguous territory;
(3) No county shall be divided in the formation of a senate district;
(4) When established, the senate districts and the apportionment of Senators shall remain unaltered until the return of another decennial census of population taken by order of Congress.
As you can see from the above segment taken from our state constitution it 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 Senator Phil Berger from Rockingham County and Senator Stan Bingham from Davidson County. The other 2 senators from Guilford County in Sen. Don Vaughan and Sen. Gladys Robinson are 100% of their district in Guilford County.
According to the new 2010 census numbers the ideal population of our state senators is for each district to be at 190,710. Senator Berger's total population in district #26 in 2000 was 168,953, and the 2010 numbers are 196,857 with a change of +16.5%. In Senator Berger's district for 2010 with the ideal population being 190,710 he is plus 6,147 which is 3.2% over the number to hit. This number is very significant because in regards to other senators from Guilford County, Senator 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%.
Below is a segment from the NCGA web site in regards to Redistricting
Division of Counties Must Be Minimized:
Article II of the State Constitution says that in drawing State House and Senate districts, no county shall be divided. In 1981, the US Department of Justice said that requirement was inconsistent with the Voting Rights Act, so the General Assembly disregarded it for 21 years. Then in 2002 the State Supreme Court in the case of Stephenson v. Bartlett said the "Whole County Provision", found in the State Constitution must be honored to the extent it can be honored, consistent with the Voting Rights Act and other State and federal precepts. The Stephenson decision for the first time said the equal protection clause of the State Constitution contained a presumption for single-member legislative districts, and that presumption should be a limitation on the Whole County Provision. The US Justice Department approved the Stephenson opinion and withdrew its 1981 objection to the Whole County Provision. The Court in Stephenson prescribed a step-by-step method for harmonizing the Whole County Provision with the other laws. First, the General Assembly should draw the districts required by the Voting Rights Act. Second, it should take all the counties with just the right population to be single-member districts and make them one-county single-member districts. Third, it should take all the counties that have just the right populations for one or more districts and divide those counties into compact single-member districts. Fourth, for the remaining counties it should group them into clusters of counties and divide the clusters into compact single-member districts, crossing county lines within the cluster as little as possible.
As you can see from the last statement from this section of the NCGA web site, it states that crossing into county lines within the cluster as little as possible, but we have two senate districts crossing into Guilford County. We also have some numbers from the 2003 redistricting plan that sheds some light on these senate seats:
Senator Bingham had 21,635 Guilford County residents which is 12.81% of his district.Sen Bingham had 5.14% of the Guilford County residents in his district with a total population in 2003 in Guilford County to be 421,048.
Senator Berger had 77,025 Guilford County residents, which is 45.59% of his district. Sen. Berger had 18.29% of the Guilford County residents in his district from the total population in Guilford County at 421,048.
Why are these 2 numbers so significant? Because as we see what was written from the NCGA web site and stated above "crossing county lines within the cluster as little as possible". If you add both Sen. Bingham at being in Guilford County at 5.14% and also Sen. Phil Berger at 18.29% that adds up to 23.43% of total residents of Guilford County who are represented by these two senators who cross county lines unconstitutionally, and being at 23.43% of total Guilford County residents is not even close to being as little as possible crossing into Guilford County.
As a Guilford County resident it would be to the benefit of the redistricting committee to take the state constitution at it's 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 residents of Senator Berger's district who are in Guilford County since he is over the ideal population in 2010 and have them be a part of Guilford County, in either Senator Vaughan's or Sen. Robinson's districts. Does Sen. Stan Bingham need to be in Guilford County at all at 5.14 % of Guilford County population? I would say NO.
We have seen in the past where the gerrymandering of these districts have really taken a turn for the worse because of non competition and having party affiliation be a 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 2 senate seats.In the 2010 elections Sen. Vaughan won by a margin of 60% to 40% and the other race in Sen Robinson had a split 3 way race where it was a 47% to 38% to 13% but the 13 % was actually a democratic party affiliated person in Bruce Davis running as a independent on the ballot for reasons too complex to go into here
Even if you wanted to put on a partisan hat for a moment and look at what is happening in Guilford County it would be to your benefit to have these republicans voters in the districts in Guilford County vote in these senate seats and could possibly have a candidate who could come close to running against these races but having a 60% to 40% split is not helping the cause in having a fair and compact district to have a competitive race. Why waste your money when the numbers are so far off to compete in these senate seats.
Thanks for your consideration in regards to the situation in Guilford County and hopefully making these senate districts more compact and fair to the citizens. 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 Senator Phil Berger in the Triad Business Journal in regards to redistricting, "What you will see is the Republican legislature follow the law". I hope you will follow the law and not cross county lines for senate seats in Guilford County and if you do cross into Guilford County it should be as little as possible - not at the 23.43% that has been done in the past.
Here is a link to a place where you can submit your thoughts on redistricting and if you agree with any piece of what was written please feel free to copy and send to you state house and senate members
also here is a link to the chairman of the senate redistricting committee
Sen. Bob Rucho CLICKHERE
also here is a link to the chairman of the house redistricting committee
senior chairman Rep. David Lewis CLICKHERE
also links to the redistricting committee