New lines may hurt women

A panel of state judges’ decision not to delay the N.C. primary could have a significant effect on diversity at the N.C. General Assembly.

The N.C. Democratic Party has said that new congressional and state legislative districts, outlined by Republicans and approved by the U.S. Justice Department and federal courts, pack minority voters into fewer districts.

Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, is one of the many Democratic women who have expressed concern about the maps and their potential effect on representation in the legislature.

“When you look at all the seats that were double-bunked in the redistricting process, a good number of those were women,” Fisher said.

“We were all struck by the message sent that women were not valued in the legislature as much as they should be.”

Double-bunking occurs when two legislators, who were previously in separate districts, are lumped together in one district.

Democrats say that while the judicial panel did not push the May 8 primary date back, it did acknowledge that the maps were worthy of further review.

“The fight is not over, the claims do in fact have merit and will be looked at further, and the judges went out of their way to say that,” said Walton Robinson, communications director for the N.C. Democratic Party.

Robinson said the maps are part of a larger plan by Republicans to “divide and conquer the state.”

However, Republicans contend that some double-bunking is an inevitable result of the redistricting process.

“That just happens, I don’t think that it is ever purposefully done. Ten years ago, I was double bunked with Republican Frank Mitchell,” said Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, and a member of the redistricting committee that authored the new districts.

Both parties say they would like to see more women in the legislature.

“We make up about 25 percent of the legislature now, which I think is bad in a way because we should be greater,” Fisher said.

Howard attributes this disproportionate representation to other factors.

“There are probably going to be fewer women simply because fewer women decide to run,” Howard said.

Recently, concerns about the maps’ impact on the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the state were eased by Gov. Bev Perdue’s decision not to run for re-election.

“I don’t think that having the primary in May will have as much effect because we now have a Democratic primary for governor as well as the Republican primary,” said Jenna Robinson, a graduate student in the UNC department of political science.

Both parties are now expected to have high voter turnouts at the polls on May 8.

Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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