Under the Dome

US Rep. Butterfield objects to redistricting criteria

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Wilson Democrat, sent a letter to Republican legislative leaders saying the criteria set for drawing new congressional districts violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

As a prelude to presenting new congressional district boundaries to comply with a federal order, a legislative committee on Tuesday decided to eliminate race as a criteria for constructing districts.

A panel of three federal judges ruled the 1st District and the 12th District unconstitutional, calling them a racial gerrymander.

In his letter, Butterfield, who represents the 1st District, objected to three criteria the committee adopted. Not considering voters’ race is a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act, he wrote.

The redistricting committee also decided to change the shape of the 12th District, which curls up Interstate 85 between Charlotte and Greensboro. Butterfield observed that the 12th District was considered constitutional before the 2011 redistricting. Any new district should not dilute African-American voting strength, he wrote.

Additionally, he objected to the goal of keeping the 10-3, Republican-Democrat partisan split. “The courts have held that there are limits to political gerrymandering and the current Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts does not account for the fact that there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state. Therefore, the current 10 Republican to 3 Democrat composition of the NC congressional delegation should not be maintained,” he wrote.

Legislators don’t want to adopt new districts so close to the March 15, and have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the lower court ruling that requires approval of new districts by Friday.

Thursday’s redistricting committee, scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday, was pushed to 4 p.m.

“The enacted criteria do not comply with the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, or basic fairness,” Butterfield wrote.