The proposed new districts for seats in the North Carolina Senate and House certainly appear, as one local legislator said, “logical” as they are more compact and in line with existing boundaries, especially county lines.
We still prefer the current ones, but that is a selfish position.
The few political observers we spoke with about the proposed maps were trying to convince us that somehow Robeson County would fare better in terms of political clout under the new lines, but we can do math. An unbending truth is that five votes is greater than three.
The maps were the subject of a statewide public hearing on Tuesday and appear on schedule for approval next week. They aren’t threatened by a veto as Gov. Roy Cooper isn’t allowed that option, but they will have to stand up to judicial scrutiny. The reason maps are being redrawn in the seventh year of a new decade is the current ones have been found to flunk the legal test, with Republicans in 2010 shoving too many blacks into some districts and therefore diluting their voting strength elsewhere.
But the strategy has worked as Republicans now hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers.
As proposed, the plan keeps District 13 in the Senate exactly the same with all of Robeson and Columbus counties, so freshman Republican Sen. Danny Britt is essentially unaffected, and we believe well positioned to keep that seat and continue good work.
But the House proposal carves out of Robeson County two districts, Nos. 48 and 66, leaving Robeson County with two representatives instead of four.
Should the maps be approved as they are, county residents lose Garland Pierce, a Wagram Democrat and the senior member of the local legislation, having been first elected in 2004, and Ken Goodman, a Rockingham Democrat who has served since 2010.
We have come to know Pierce as a fighter for social justice, and someone keenly interested in using legislation to better the plight of people who are poor, struggling to educated, in need of health care, and the list just grows from there. Obviously there are many in Robeson County, perhaps the poorest county in the state. He is also the only black member of the local delegation, which means about 30,000 blacks in this county will not have someone of the same color representing their interests in the General Assembly.
Goodman’s district is odd, stretching eastward from Richmond County to grab about 5,000 Robeson County residents. Goodman is a thoughtful, well-respected legislator with a knack for getting things done, so we hate to see him go even though geographically, it makes sense.
It doesn’t matter to us that the districts for both Pierce and Goodman only include small swaths of Robeson County that are not largely populated. Each still has a single vote, and we don’t doubt that when using it they have attempted to represent the interests of Robeson County residents.
We see no other conclusion except that the new districts, if approved as are, takes from Robeson County some political sway that is badly needed in Raleigh as this county, like some many poor and rural counties in North Carolina, works for a better future.