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The Daily Tar Heel

House Vote To Finalize Districts

After delaying their vote on a redistricting plan, House representatives are hoping to agree on a plan today.

The House redistricting plan was expected to gain approval during Wednesday's session, but majority leaders adjourned the meeting after an amendment passed that Democrats thought would fail.

Debate in the early afternoon meeting was postponed four times for lengthy recesses and caucus meetings.

Rep. Ronnie Sutton, D-Hoke, the bill's sponsor, opened the redistricting discussion by reminding representatives that compromise is necessary and that there isn't a plan that could fit all member's preferences.

"If all 120 members went into separate rooms and drew plans, we'd have 120 different plans," Sutton said.

Sutton said the plan is fair and would stand up in court.

"We have gone a long way to make the Sutton II plan better than the Sutton I," Sutton said.

Once the discussion got under way Rep. Art Pope, R-Wake, and Sutton monopolized the majority of the debate.

Sutton encouraged fellow Democrats to vote against the first amendment that was proposed because it would increase the number of Republicans in a district.

The comment elicited repeated questions from Pope as to the criteria Sutton used for drawing the district lines.

"Did you in general consider the party result when drawing the district lines?" Pope asked.

Republicans argued that Sutton's plans have unbalanced districts and are not compact.

Rep. Larry Justus, R-Henderson, described the lack of balanced districts was a "crying shame."

"I hope we don't get to the point that we're up to our knees in tears before we're done tonight," Justus said.

But Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange, read information from other states' redistricting plans, citing them as far worse. Hackney said the Sutton plan does not ensure either party a majority for the next 10 years.

"The sin we have committed, what is the sin, it's not Republican enough?" Hackney asked.

Sutton came under fire from Pope, who said minorities are underrepresented in the existing plan, but Sutton said it was unavoidable.

"I'll be the first to admit there is some retrogression in some of these districts," he said.

Pope said packing minority populations into districts generally means higher Republican representation in surrounding areas but accused white Democrats of spreading out blacks to increase the number of Democrats in the House.

"I think blacks are being used like cards in a deck to prop up white Democrats and weaken white Republicans," Pope said.

Rep. Fern Shubert, R-Union, argued that Sutton did not attempt to compact districts when making his plan.

"Anybody looking at this map and thinks it used compactness obviously needs new glasses," Shubert said.

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Shubert also said the plan does not give Democrats an advantage either. "Good luck guys if you think this is going to help you individually next election."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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