Regarding the July 19 news article “Federal judge could draw new Wake County maps”: Residents recognize that productive discourse requires us to avoid stereotypes and profile-based opinions. I am concerned that your newspaper continues to profile the litigants in the redistricting case as “left-leaning” plaintiffs.
As one of 19 very distinct plaintiffs, I object to this nonfactual conclusion and characterization. Among the litigants are the retired chair of the zoology department at NCSU, PTA presidents, involved church leaders, business owners, lawyers and retired teachers. These folks are involved in this community, working to improve it with their time and talents.
We truly represent the centrists in our community who believe that redistricting decisions should be data driven, using numerical balance and not political overreach by either party.
As is prescribed in the U.S. Constitution, a decennial census is used to apportion representatives. The last census was conducted in 2010, and both the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners districts were rebalanced. All districts had a population deviation in the range of 1 to 2 percent, not the 9.6 percent of some of the districts contested in the litigation.
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In 2001, with the 2000 census, Susan Parry, Judy Hoffman and I were asked by Wake County Board Chair Wray Stephens to adjust and equalize the Board of Education districts. We did it based purely on the population numbers and did not use party affiliation at all, if it was even available.
As I recall, we met two to three times for two to three hours each time. The school system’s lawyers provided software. The Board of Elections requested that we avoid splitting precincts; we followed that request.
In 2011 after the next census, former school board Chairman Ron Margiotta did not have board members undertake the redistricting task. Instead, that board paid Kiernan Shanahan $40,000 to do what had taken the three of us between 20 and 30 hours to do. However, to Shanahan’s credit, the population deviation between the districts was small. Those districts were numerically balanced.
There also was a Republican majority on the Board of Commissioners that redrew those districts in 2011.
This lawsuit is not about who draws the districts, but whether they are drawn in a numerically balanced way.
In 2013, with no new census data available or any logical reason, the General Assembly inserted itself by creating new districts that to the naked eye are gerrymandered.
Prior to the ruling that those districts are unconstitutional, I filed as a candidate for District 3, which goes from Yates Mill Pond in southwest Raleigh to north of Triangle Town Center.
The remedy that the plaintiffs seek is the simple return to Shanahan’s districts of 2011, drawn by Republicans but numerically balanced. This would mean the end of my candidacy, but it is the right thing to do!
I will continue to be a strong advocate for fair voting opportunities and excellence in our public schools.
Beverley S. Clark
Former member, Wake County Board of Education
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue.