Lawmakers were given conflicting advise Wednesday, as they held the first in a series of public hearings on congressional and legislative redistricting.
They were told they be fair, they shouldn't pack African-Americans into several districts, they should ignore race, they should ignore politics, and the Republicans should do unto the Democrats just as the Democrats did unto them.
The joint Senate and House Redistricting Committees held joint hearings at the N.C. Museum of History and simultaneous video conferences in Rocky Mount and Roxboro. The hearings, the first of 36, were lightly attended.
Sen. Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County said were an effort to provide the broadest public input ever. But several speakers said it was pretty difficult to comment on a redistricting plan that no one has seen.
This will be the first time that Republicans control the redistricting process.
Several African-American speakers cautioned against efforts to crowd as black voters as possible into black majority districts, thereby diluting black political influence.
Fred Belfield, a Nash County commissioner, and an African-American was particularly concerned about rumors that Republicans planned to create three black-majority congressional districts, in an effort to help elect white Republicans in surrounding districts.
Bob Fuller seemed to suggest that the GOP legislature should use whatever partisan edge to their advantage, just like the Democrats had.
“To the victors go the spoils,” Fuller said.
David Whitlock said the current maps gerrymandered for the Democrats, and warned that the U.S. Justice Department would attempt to use its power under the Voting Rights Act to make sure the Democrats continue to have an advantage.
Damon Circosta of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, said voters would have little confidence in the redistricting process as long as lawmakers were drawing their own district.