County representative helping to shape state’s plan
When the state’s redistricting plans are presented in June, Union County will have at least one new seat in the General Assembly.
“With the growth Union County has seen over the last 10 years it should gain representation,” Rep. Justin Burr said.
Burr, whose current district includes Union, Montgomery and Stanly counties, serves as the vice chair for the House Redistricting Committee. According to the U.S. census data Union County’s population has increased from 123,677 in 2000 to 201,292 in 2010.
After each census, the House and Senate are ordered to redraw the voting districts, to better reflect the population. Currently, Craig Horn and Frank McGuirt in the House of Representative and Tommy Tucker in the Senate join Burr to represent Union County.
Originally, the Redistricting Committee had been instructed to return with a completed plan by mid May. After a series of public hearings that wrapped the first week of the month, the committee went back and adjusted some of their work, Burr said.
“Public hearings have occurred around the state to get opinions from the citizens and now the committee will work with the data to draw the maps,” Burr said. He estimates the map should be finished by sometime in June, in time to be used in the 2012 elections.
The new districts will be used for the next 10 years and because of this there is pressure to have the districts represent the population of the state correctly.
“The new districts will be fair and legal,” Burr said.
One problem the redistricting committee wants to avoid is gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the process where the political party in power at the time of redistricting tries to draw districts that will include as many members of the population that are more likely to vote favorable for that particular party.
“Our concern in the past has been that our districts have been gerrymandered, and the current map of North Carolina looks as if it was taken and a paintball gun was shot at to determine the districts,” Burr said.
Burr and the committee are determined to prevent gerrymandering from becoming an issue.
“I believe we will keep counties and communities more intact rather than the district being stretched out and growing arms and legs for the purpose of gerrymandering,” Burr said.
Rep. Craig Horn expects that whatever shape the new districts take, his will be smaller in size.
“District 68 has enjoyed the greatest growth of all the districts in the state,” Horn said. “We virtually doubled in size since the 2000 census on which the current lines are based. I can, therefore, be expected to endure the greatest change in territory.”
Right now, Horn pointed out, he represents more than 140,000 people. In the new district, he estimates it will be cut to a little more than half that many.
“Based on the total population of the state, each district should have just under 80,000 people,” Horn said.
Other officials said they believed the redistricting would help Union develop a stronger presence at the capital.
“For the past decade, Union County has been one of the fastest growing counties in (the state) each year, yet ranked near the bottom in state funding for many essential services,” Union County Republican Party Chairman John Steward said. “The new seats will increase (the county’s) clout in Raleigh and Union County will finally be in a position to get an equitable return on the taxes we send.”
Steward said he didn’t know what the Republican drawn districts would look like, but he was positive they would be condensed.
“I don’t want Union County’s districts or any other district drawn to favor the Republican Party,” Steward said. “I just ask for a level playing field for a change.”