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Why Redistricting Matters

Steinburg-Bob-HeaderA Conservative's Viewpoint

Election Day 2010 will be the most serious our state and nation will face for the next 10 years. I know that sounds dramatic, but if conservatives and moderates care one iota about the future its time to take a basic crash course on redistricting.

Once every decade in years that end in zero, states are required by law to take the most recent census data provided to them by the federal government and apply it the following year to help redraw the borders of our state legislative and Congressional districts. The lines are redrawn to reflect changes in population from the previous census.

In 36 states, including North Carolina, the political party controlling the legislature determines how the maps will be drawn. It is a partisan process that is badly in need of reform.

Some states have moved away from this partisan approach. Five of them carry out congressional redistricting by an independent or bipartisan commission. Other states have populations so small they have only one representative in the U. S. House, so Congressional redistricting is moot.

While redistricting was intended to insure fairness, in most states it has evolved into another tool to maintain the status quo of the majority party.

One example is North Carolina's 1st Congressional District represented by Rep. G. K. Butterfield. It is comprised in some cases of bits and pieces of 23 counties resembling a jigsaw puzzle. It twists and meanders through precincts and counties that are favorable to the incumbent, making him very difficult to defeat.  This gerrymandering or trying to get votes unfairly to maintain power is all too common and is destroying any chance the folks have of a true representative government.

When this year's campaign gets underway in earnest this spring, most voters will be paying more attention to the federal races than those of candidates vying for seats in the N. C. General Assembly. This is a huge mistake for anyone who feels our state and nation are heading in the wrong direction.

There are some incumbents who will once again begin masquerading as conservatives. They understand the state and nation are predominately right-center and to win in many districts that's how they must portray themselves to the electorate.

Fortunately voters have a fool proof way of stripping the mask from these chameleons. All one has to do is research the most important vote your legislator will ever make; the one they cast to elect their leaders in the House and Senate. It's the leadership and not the rank and file members who will be driving the legislative agenda for the upcoming session.

Let's look at three of the conservative imposters representing state House districts from the east who serves in the general assembly; Democratic Representatives Bill Owens from Pasquotank County, Arthur Williams from Beaufort and Tim Spear from Washington County. Spear, according to rumor control, is telling friends and relatives he will be replacing Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, in the state Senate when Basnight steps down early next year due to his lingering illness. If true (and my sources say it is) Spear's replacement would be appointed (probably from Dare) rather than elected by the good people of Chowan, Dare, Washington and Hyde counties, giving voters no say in the matter.

Spear, along with Owens and Williams voted to support Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange, the most liberal member of the N. C. House as their Speaker. Owens and Williams even supported disgraced former Democratic Speaker of the House Jim Black who is now serving a five year prison sentence on a felony conviction.

Owens is the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee which, among other things, determines what bills will be heard and voted on and which bills won't. He and Hackney are the most powerful players in the House.

Here are a few bills that never made it to the House floor because of Owens collaborating with Hackney and other liberals to keep them from coming to a vote: 

  • the Marriage Amendment which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Sixty eight members of the House have signed on as sponsors of this bill, enough for it to pass. But Owens and Hackney won't let them vote. 
  • the Taxpayer Protection Act. This is a bill that would require limiting state spending by basing it on growth and population instead of whim. 
  • Eminent Domain. Conservatives want a constitutional amendment to provide rock-solid protection for all citizens of this state in defending personal property rights against government seizure.

The "conservative" Democratic leadership in Raleigh has also given us the state lottery and untold increases to our taxes at the corporate and personal levels, killing not only job creation, but the family budget as well.

Absolute control exits over in the Senate where Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, presides, holding out his ring for his minions to kiss while bowing and genuflecting before his political throne before submitting to his will.

They say that folks get the government they deserve. Perhaps, but if this is the best our elected representatives can do for our citizenry, than our state and her people will fail to reach our unlimited potential. No longer should voters accept maintaining the status quo that has for all too long benefited the few on the backs of the multitude.

The road to prosperity can begin this November on Election Day, if conservatives, moderates and like minded Democrats have the courage, conviction and will to elect individuals who are truly committed to bettering the lives of "We the people," and that means all of us.

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