By Gordon Anderson | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Kirk Smith has asked for “the political breakdown” of redistricting proposals submitted to the board by county staff, according to an email obtained by The Rant.
“After this evenings (sic) presentation on the proposed redistricting, I would like to know the political breakdown for each proposed district,” Smith, one of the board’s four Republicans, wrote to County Manager John Crumpton on Sept. 8, a little more than an hour after a presentation to the full board of four new map proposals by Lee County GIS Director Don Kovascitz.
Commissioners are required to redraw their electoral districts every ten years to reflect population changes after the decennial Census. Smith’s request is notable because courts in North Carolina have ruled that partisan political data shouldn’t be considered when drawing electoral maps, and rules adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly for the drawing of its own districts also forbid its use.
The Rant has reached out to Smith via email and will include his response if he makes one.
Crumpton responded to Smith’s email the same night that “this information can be provided and I want to make it clear that all the Commissioners will receive this information,” but told The Rant Friday that he and County Attorney Whitney Parrish ultimately advised the board that providing political data could open the door for a redistricting lawsuit. The only additional data that has been provided since for the proposed districts (a fifth has been added since Kovascitz’s presentation) is the number of registered voters in each. All five district proposals were drawn, however, using total population and not registered voters.
A continuation of the redistricting discussion is on the agenda for the commissioners meeting on Monday, Sept. 20, and a public hearing on whatever proposal the board chooses will take place sometime after that. Crumpton said the county’s goal is to have new districts adopted by mid-October, a month ahead of the November deadline.
Why would Smith want this information? He wouldn’t be considering redistricting based on political party would he? Surely, he wouldn’t be trying to give his side an advantage.
So to be devils advocate, we don’t know the reasons Smith wanted this information and the pursuit of information does not always have nefarious reasons. Also Smith may not know that this information is not permissible for consideration in the redistricting process. I think the appropriate course of action should have been, instead of trying to throw Smith under the bus and create an issue where there may not be one by sending this E-mail traffic to a local news outlet. Maybe, just maybe the appropriate initial action should have been to educate Mr. Smith that his request is not legal and cite the appropriate state regulation that forbids it, so he is now aware of what the proper procedures are. He if then continues to seek the information, then he is acting improperly and then expose him for it. We as a society are so quick to try and trash people of a different political party. Instead of just being civilized and give the benefit of the doubt that they may not know. Can we please start being intellectually honest and stop the partisan fighting just because somebody has an R or D beside their name??? None of this benefits our nation, state, or county. As for The Rant writing this, your page and paper are becoming a more popular place of information and IMHO i would like to read a more balanced approach to your reporting. Legitimate reporters call balls, strikes, and home-runs regardless of political parties. Democrats are not flawless and neither are Republicans. It seems like The Rant is very hyper-critical of the Republicans and dismissive of Democrats. I would like to see The Rant be politically neutral and just report the good, the bad, and the ugly of all political parties in Lee County. This is the type of Journalism America craves. There was a time that political bias was only in the Editorial section, where the Editor gave their opinion. The rest of the news was informational and the readers formed their opinion based on unbiased fact based information. So let’s see how this plays out and let’s listen to what Mr. Smith has to say. He may very well have been ignorant of that rule and was looking for voter information not to tip the scales but to in fact level the playing field to have equal political representation in each district.
What are some legit reasons for requesting the information? I just see the situation in context of what is being requested. The board has to draw new electoral districts. A request is made to see the political make-up of the proposed new districts. In that context, critical thinking would lead most people to believe that he desires this information to determine how he would like the vote to play out.
But, hey, I might be wrong. He may be wanting to ensure that the opposition is able to maintain some of the political power as well.
Mike, Critical thinking does not embrace the concept of assumptions that are not based on facts. Critical thinking requires logic devoid of fallacies. The reality is you may be correct. However, you and I don’t know that. Just because you don’t know why Mr. Smith would request this information doesn’t equate to him trying to manipulate districts to his political parties advantage. It is fair to ask why he wants the information, it is fair to point out the information is not allowed in the decision making process. It is not fair or even remotely close to critical thinking to assume we know anything more than the facts we have at hand at this moment, which is he requested the information. That’s it, that’s all. When making assumptions and insinuating wrong doing based on half of the information is not looking at the facts in context and that is what leads people to “Believe” that we know someone else’s intentions. The article even admits that the Rant doesn’t have any comment from Mr. Smith or any of his responses in the E-mail traffic. To go beyond reporting that he made the request, the response from the manager, and that it is information that is not allowed is all there is. All else is making an assumption based on our own biases.
D.Roberts. – Give me a single legitimate reason he would ask for that information. Just one. I will concede to you if you can.
This certainly didn’t age well now did it.
Mike, I could see if a district leans overwhelmingly to one political party modifying the district so there is equal opportunity for representation. If a district is overwhelmingly Republican then there is little or no chance for any Democrats to have an opportunity to have a candidate ever have a chance to be elected and represent them. They are really left with only one option move to a different district or live with never being represented in offices of government. Adjusting the district so there is equal Democrat and Republican would create an equal opportunity for that district to have balanced representation and also force anyone regardless of political affiliations to recognize the needs of both R and D because the opposing political party can remove you if you ignore them. Of course I also see a great opportunity change a district from one political party to another. I won’t try and say that isn’t a potential. However that isn’t what you asked for. You asked for a legitimate reason so I gave what I think would be a benefit of creating equal political powers in a district. I can see it as also creating more involvement of the citizens to become more active in the election process. People become complacent when they think their party has unchallenged control, so they stop focusing on the issues and voting. So anyway there is just one example of why a person may want to know the political leanings of the districts so they can modify the districts to have political equity instead of political dominance. Nobody benefits when there is political monopolies.
Each district needs about 15250 people. Plus or minus a few percent does not matter so you could have 14500, 15800, 15250, and 15450, etc. 20% of the population is African American. 20% of the population is Hispanic. By law you will need at least 1 majority minority district.
The trick is that more of the minority population consists of children under the age of 18 than does the white population. 24% of the County is under that age of 18. Ultimately what that means is the oldest, whitest district will have the most registered voters and it will take more votes to win said district.
To win each district it may take as few as 1,400 and as many as 3,000 in another depending on how many actual people are of voting age, are registered, and are likely to turnout.
A partisan breakdown is actually of less value than an good overall demographic breakdown. Hopefully no one on the Board is foolish enough to get into a fight over how many actual voters are in each district and how many are over 18, because if you attempt to tinker with those elements, you cause the overall population elements to get out of kilter.
D, in a perfect world, I could see the desire to create a balanced map. The problem is using party affiliation as a balancing tool. We already know that it is potentially illegal. A better tool might be to break it down in socio-economic groups. In an update to this story, we have learned that Mr. Smith withdrew his request. I believe that was the wise move. We can put this one to bed.
Mike, I think it was a good discussion. I learned a good deal. I had to do some research on the subject. Thanks for the civility when so many these days go right being verbally aggressive lacking any form of civil discussion.