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Pay attention or you’ll miss it

A Richmond County man visited Salisbury on Thursday to announce his candidacy for the 25th district of the N.C. Senate, which brings a question to mind: What?
That is, could that be our district?
You might have to look at a map to figure out the answer.
The 25th state Senate district encompasses the southeastern corner of Rowan County, along with all of Stanly, Anson, Richmond and Scotland counties. The district includes China Grove, but not neighboring Landis. It includes Rockwell, but not Granite Quarry or Faith.
Republican Tom McInnis hopes to challenge sitting Sen. Gene McLaurin, a Democrat from Rockingham, for the opportunity to represent the 20 percent of Rowan citizens who live in that area. The remaining 80 percent are represented by Andrew Brock, a Republican from Mocksville.
We bring this up to make a point. This will be a big political year. We’ll be electing members of Congress, state legislators, county commissioners, a sheriff and more. But the districts are complex and the races can be confusing. To borrow from Ferris Bueller, the election cycle moves fast. If you don’t slow down to study the issues and candidates, you could miss it.
Our elected representatives are not making it easy. The Republican majority in the legislature gerrymandered the state’s districts to the nth degree after the 2010 census; the Rowan corner in McLaurin’s district is a good illustration of that. The impact was even more dramatic in congressional districts. Rob Christiansen pointed that out recently in a News & Observer column about the 2012 elections in North Carolina:
“Although 2,218,357 (50.6 percent) voters cast their ballots in the 13 House races for Democrats and 2,137,167 (48.7 percent) cast their ballots for Republicans, the delegation changed from a 7-6 Democratic majority to a 9-4 Republican majority.”
So we have skewed districts at both the congressional and the state legislative level. We have district lines that get more convoluted with each passing census. And we have an electorate bombarded with information from all directions, much of it trivial or, in the case of politics, grossly oversimplified. These are the greatest impediments to participation in the democratic process.
The validity of the state’s legislative and congressional maps is in the hands of the state Supreme Court, which heard arguments last week. The future of the state is in the hands of citizens who refuse to leave the election of our leaders to elite insiders — no matter how complicated the process gets. Filing for office starts Feb. 10. Stay tuned.

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