Political notebook: Princeton Gerrymandering Project gives new NC districts ‘F’ for partisanship

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, which provides nonpartisan analysis of state-by-state redistricting efforts, has given North Carolina’s newly drawn districts an “F” for partisan gerrymandering.

The newly drawn state House, Senate and congressional maps approved by the General Assembly this month will be in place for the 2022 midterm elections.

Currently, Rowan County is split into three state House districts, with Republican representation including District 76’s Harry Warren, District 77’s Julia Howard and District 67’s Wayne Sasser. Howard also represents parts of Davie County, while Sasser represents parts of Cabarrus and Stanly counties as well.

The new North Carolina House map splits Rowan into three counties again — District 76, 77 and 83.

In the new maps, District 76 appears to cover Salisbury, Spencer, East Spencer, Granite Quarry, Faith and southeastern Rowan County. The new District 77 would contain the northwestern portion of Rowan County and all of Davie and Yadkin counties. District 83 will contain the southwestern portion of Rowan County and the northwestern corner of Cabarrus County and does not contain an incumbent.

Though the Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the new House districts an “F” in partisan fairness due to “significant Republican advantage,” it gave all three of the state’s maps a competitiveness grade of “C” when compared to others that could have been drawn. It gave their geographic features a “B” for remaining compact with few county splits.

For state House District 76, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project shows a 63% Republican vote share and a 37% Democratic vote share, with a 33% minority age voting age population using Census data. State House District 77 has a minority voting age population of 16%, a 76% Republican vote share and 24% Democratic vote share. State House District 83 has a 63% Republican vote share, 37% Democratic vote share and a minority voting age population of 30%.

The North Carolina Senate map keeps Ford’s 33rd Senate District unchanged. It received the same grades from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, but it has a Republican vote share of 69%, a Democratic vote share of 31% and a minority voting age population of 26%.

The new maps move Rowan County from the 13th Congressional District to the 10th Congressional District. The 10th also covers Cabarrus and Davie counties as well as parts of Iredell, Davidson and Guilford counties. While Reps. Richard Hudson and Ted Budd are double-bunked in the district, Budd is running for U.S. Senate. Hudson will run for the 10th District. Prior to redistricting in 2020, Hudson represented a swath of Rowan County.

Scott Huffman, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Budd in 2020, has declared a run to represent the new 10th Congressional district in 2022.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project also gave similar grades to the Congressional district, but it received a “C” for geographic features and its level of compactness with county splits.

A group of voters who successfully challenged previous North Carolina maps are again suing in state court. The plaintiffs argue Republicans drew the new maps in a way that violates provisions of the state constitution.

Salisbury-Rowan NAACP president praises man’s pardoning

Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Gemale Black says the pardoning of a man wrongfully convicted of a 1994 murder came after hard work from the NAACP and other organizations.

Montoyae Dontae Sharpe, a Black man from Charlotte, served 26 years in prison until 2019 when it was determined he was wrongfully convicted for a 1994 murder. The NAACP and other activists called on Gov. Roy Cooper to formally pardon Sharpe after the order entered by Superior Court Judge George Bryan Collins Jr. in 2019 stated the first witness in the original trial made up her testimony as “she was not present at the time of the shooting and that her trial testimony was entirely made up based on what she saw on television and what investigators told her.”

The pardon order states the medical examiner’s testimony during the trial that the witness’ testimony was “medically and scientifically impossible.”

“I have carefully reviewed Montoyae Dontae Sharpe’s case and am granting him a Pardon of Innocence,” Cooper said. “Mr. Sharpe and others who have been wrongly convicted deserve to have that injustice fully and publicly acknowledged.”

This pardon makes Sharpe eligible to file a claim under North Carolina law, which allows compensation to persons wrongly convicted of felonies.

Black, who recently sought the top position in the state chapter, said Sharpe should have been released sooner and that his pardoning is the result of the NAACP and other organizations coming together to demand it. When Black was seeking the state chapter’s presidency last month, he said a pardoning of Sharpe was among the top priorities.

“There is no amount of money or words that can make up for the time he spent behind bars away from his family,” Black said. “This conviction exposes the unjust incarceration of innocent people and is a reflection of the justice system not only in North Carolina but nationwide.”

Black said while the NAACP celebrates, it’s also inspired to continue evaluating the criminal justice system and speaking up to prevent the ruin of innocent people “who sit in jail who shouldn’t be there.”

Budd, Tillis, Hudson, other NC lawmakers call for expedited installation of Rev. Billy Graham bust in U.S. Capitol

Reps. Ted Budd and Richard Hudson as well as Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, have filed another resolution to expedite the installation of a statue honoring the late Rev. Billy Graham.

Traditionally, each state is authorized to designate “two statues of notable citizens for display in the United States Capitol” after approval from the Joint Committee on the Library.

In October 2015, the North Carolina General Assembly requested the JCL approve the replacement of the statue of Charles Brantley Aycock with the Rev. William Franklin “Billy” Graham, Jr., a nationally known evangelist from Charlotte. Graham was born in November 1918, and died at the age of 99 in February 2018. In 2020, the North Carolina General Assembly sent designs of the statue to the JCL.

Graham was also a spiritual adviser to every U.S. president, beginning with former President Harry Truman’s tenure until President Barack Obama’s.

Budd first filed such a resolution this summer after voting against a bill calling for the removal of certain statues and busts, such as those honoring Confederates, from display in the Capitol. His latest resolution leaves just two steps left in the 10-step process. The resolution calls for the JCL to approve or deny the design and bust within 30 days.

“The legacy of Rev. Billy Graham is based on his simple message of forgiveness based on John 3:16,” Budd said. “His lifelong commitment to preaching the Gospel, his fight for civil rights, his opposition to communism and the spiritual guidance provided hope to hundreds of millions. He was the first private citizen from North Carolina to lie in honor in the United States Capitol and his likeness should stand right outside the House chamber forever. After years of bureaucratic delay, it’s time to get this done.”

Tillis said Graham was a beloved figure and dedicated servant who made a profound impact on North Carolina and the world, and he can think of no better figure suited to represent the state.

Budd, Tillis, Burr and Hudson were joined in the measure by Reps. Greg Murphy, Dan Bishop, David Rouzer and Madison Cawthorn.