Potential impacts of redisctricting on election results in N.C.

This fall, redistricting could have a major impact on election results across North Carolina — a state with a controversial history — when new district lines are drawn.

Kareem Crayton, a law professor at UNC, spoke at Graham Memorial Thursday about the unique history of North Carolina’s redistricting troubles, and the 2011 map’s continuance of that tradition.

Redistricting maps are created every 10 years after the federal census, and the last two were subject to legal challenges that eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 1990 census map — designed by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly — led to the landmark decision Shaw v. Reno, which established racial gerrymandering was illegal, Crayton said.

The talk, presented by the Center for the Study of the American South, also focused on the latest round of redistricting after the 2010 elections. The Republican-dominated state legislature bunched African Americans in districts where they already had influence, creating white majorities in more districts across the state, Crayton said.

Crayton said he believes this bunching creates both cultural and political problems.

“One serious effect of all of these plans is it diminished the number of districts where African Americans or nonwhite voters and white voters worked together to elect candidates,” he said.

In an interview, Crayton said this could have long-term effects in the state.

“There’s a real problem in a society that aspires toward color-blindness (and yet) where we see people more heavily divided along lines of race, and we see politics reflect those artificial divisions,” he said. “That’s not the way we live. It’s not the way we think.”

Crayton said the new map is likely to be contested in the court system for these very reasons.

“If the past is any indication, any plan out of North Carolina will find its way to the Supreme Court, and this is as good as any one out there to meet the bill,” he said.

Jeremy Collins, a third-year law student at UNC and a student in one of Crayton’s classes, said he felt confident that if the Supreme Court did hear the case, a good argument would be put up against it.

“A number of actors are going to do the best job in presenting the best case possible for why the current 2011 plan is just not necessary,” he said.

Crayton suggested using a nonpartisan committee to draw the redistricting maps in the next census, a policy advocated by the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform.

A recent survey conducted by the group, sent out to candidates and incumbents across North Carolina, found that all respondents said there needs to be a change in redistricting policy.

Jane Pinsky, director of the coalition, said the current process is hurting North Carolina.

“It really has undermined the confidence that citizens have in their government, because they can’t believe that the people they are electing got there fair and square,” she said.

Contact the desk editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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