RALEIGH — Congressional districts in Guilford and Rockingham counties will likely change before the 2012 election even though North Carolina will not add any more seats in the U.S. House.
The first official results from the 2010 Census were released Tuesday and showed North Carolina fell 15,700 residents shy of adding a 14th U.S. House seat.
While the state did not gain representation, it did gain people.
North Carolina moved up one spot to become the 10th most populous state, and it is the sixth fastest growing state, home to
9.5 million people.
Federal officials conduct the Census once every 10 years. Although the data collected has many uses, its most basic function is redrawing the lines for congressional, legislative and other political districts.
In theory, those lines are redrawn to ensure that every political district — and voter — has roughly equal representation in political bodies from their local city councils on up to the U.S. House. In practice, the party in control of drawing the lines can use that power to give themselves an advantage.
Favorable districts may have helped Democratic congressmen from North Carolina hold onto their seats in the fall. Despite Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr handily winning election and both houses of the state General Assembly falling to Republicans, Democrats held onto seven of the state’s congressional seats, only losing one in a closely contest race.
Republicans, who will have complete control over the state’s redistricting for the first time in more than a century, said they’re more interested in correcting problems than gerrymandering for an advantage.
“There are some bizarre-looking districts; there’s no doubt about that,” said Sen. Bob Rucho , a Charlotte Republican who will head up his chamber’s redistricting efforts.
Republicans’ efforts to redraw lines will be constrained somewhat by federal voting rights laws, which protect districts inhabited mostly by minorities, and by court decisions.
Even with those restrictions, Rucho said he hoped to draw more compact districts.
Three congressional districts cross into Guilford County: the Republican-friendly 6th and the Democratic-leaning 12th and 13th.
The 12th comes up from Charlotte and reaches into both Guilford and Forsyth counties. The 13th comes from Raleigh, moves along the Virginia border and then drops through Rockingham County into central Greensboro.
Those are the type of sprawling districts that Rucho said he would like to reshape.
Redrawing districts could make it harder for incumbents to seek re-election or shift the partisan makeup of a district to favor one party over another.
“Incumbents aren’t that much of an issue to me,” Rucho said.
Rep. Brad Miller , a Democrat who holds the 13th District seat, said he expected Republicans to redraw lines in their favor. The GOP has frequently grumbled that Miller, who was a state senator involved in redistricting 10 years ago, tailored the 13th District for himself.
“Republicans seem to claim any plan that allows Democrats to vote is a gerrymander,” Miller quipped Tuesday.
Legislative districts also will be redrawn, but the data released Tuesday was not specific enough to tell which counties might gain or lose state seats.
Democrats renewed their call for an independent redistricting commission. Gov. Bev Perdue asked lawmakers for an independent panel last week. On Tuesday, outgoing House Speaker Joe Hackney said lawmakers should put redrawing legislative lines in the hands of a bipartisan commission.
Republicans have said there is not time to put such a commission in place because it would require a change to the state’s constitution.
Democrats argue that a commission could recommend redrawn lines that lawmakers would then ratify.
Rucho, who said the legislature’s redistricting committees should be able to start working in February, said lawmakers didn’t need a commission to draw fair lines.
Contact Mark Binker at (919) 832-5549 or firstname.lastname@example.org Census statistics for north carolina
2010 growth: 18.5 percent over previous decade
2000 growth: 21 percent over previous decade
9,535,483: 2010 population*
8,049,313: 2000 population*
30,298: Overseas residents such as military personnel
6.6 million: 1990 population
Representation: N.C. keeps its 13 congressional districts and 15 presidential electoral votes.
What it means: New districts will remain through the 2020 elections. Lawmakers will have to add about 100,000 residents to each congressional district.
* Population on April 1
— The Associated Press
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!