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Redistricting was 'no plum assignment,' McGrady says

State Rep. Chuck McGrady says he didn’t view his appointment to a special redistricting committee as a plum assignment because he’s never specialized in map drawing and was unenthusiastic about a week of off-season committee work in Raleigh.


After a federal appeals court ruling that invalidated the state’s congressional map, legislative leaders appointed a joint redistricting committee to redraw the lines to pass constitutional muster.
“When I first heard that a three-judge panel of federal judges had declared two of the congressional districts unconstitutional because the legislature had relied on race in drawing those districts, I expected we’d be called back for a Special Session to redraw those districts,” McGrady said in his regular newsletter to constituents. “Since I didn’t serve on the committee dealing with elections, I figured my role would simply be to show up and vote on new maps and probably some bill to establish the timetable for the election. I was wrong. … Surprisingly, I was named to the committee.”
While many legislators would covet such an appointment, “I didn’t view it as a plum assignment,” he added. “First, it was going to require me to spend almost a whole week in Raleigh on redistricting. Second, I was going to be working on a partisan redistricting bill even though I was on record as opposing partisan redistricting.”
McGrady is a primary sponsor of a bill that would create a commission to produce nonpartisan redistricting, a position that puts him at odds with the Republican leadership that is happy to control the map-drawing apparatus now that the GOP holds supermajority control of both houses of the General Assembly.
“Incorrectly, I figured my sponsorship of the bill would be an impediment to my appointment to the committee," McGrady writes. "Upon hearing of my appointment, I communicated with the Speaker’s staff to learn why I’d been appointed and learned that I was added to the committee because they needed a mountain legislator on the committee to help give it geographic diversity and that my legal degree was viewed as a positive. I also got the sense that my being an independent thinker was viewed as a plus along with my reputation for being pretty transparent.”
The committee tried to remedy the map’s defects. It made elongated districts more compact, gave all 13 districts close to equal population, avoided any consideration of race, sought to preserve the partisan makeup of the current map (10 Republicans and three Democrats) and avoided double-bunking of incumbents in all but one district.
“Some of the criteria received unanimous or near-unanimous support. For example, the equal protection and contiguity criteria,” McGrady said. “Other criteria were adopted along partisan lines, particularly the partisan advantage criterion.
“Since Republican legislators supported these criteria, one might wonder how legislators like me or Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) could support a criterion that explicitly recognized partisan advantage as a criterion for redistricting. My view in voting on this criterion was that we were responding to a judicial decision that said we had unconstitutionally used race to map out the districts when what was actually done was partisan redistricting. Since redistricting for partisan advantage was not unconstitutional, albeit something I wanted to change, I voted to make it clear what was being done.”
The legislation went on to pass, along partisan lines. It adopted the new map and moved the congressional primaries to June 7. It’s expected that the three-judge panel will review the new map and rule on whether it is valid.