Stokes and Surry counties are among the locations set to change congressional districts according to a redistricting plan being considered by state legislators today as the General Assembly convenes for an extra session to redraw congressional districts in the state.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed a proclamation calling for the session late Wednesday. The group will “consider any other legislation necessary to hold the 2016 congressional elections,” stated McCrory.
According to the proposed changes, Stokes and Surry counties would be shifted from District 6 to District 5 and grouped with neighboring counties and those in the northwest corner of the state.
Stokes County was brought in to District 6 as a result of the 2011 redistricting that was challenged in court.
Those congressional districts were challenged as racially motivated gerrymandering drawn to achieve partisan favor and violating the constitutions of the United States and North Carolina.
Though the N.C. Supreme Court upheld the districts as lawful, they were struck down in U.S. District Court on Feb. 5.
The federal three-judge panel ordered the state to have the new districts drawn by Feb. 19. While state officials have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking at the very least that district realignment be put off until after this year’s elections, they are also moving ahead with the court order to redraw the maps.
District 6, which is represented by U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican, currently includes portions of Guilford, Alamance, Durham, Granville and Orange Counties and all of Caswell, Person, Rockingham, Surry and Stokes counties.
On Wednesday, Walker said if the new districts were approved, he would miss serving the residents of Stokes County.
“I would dearly miss representing Surry and Stokes County and the good people that are dear to me,” Walker said in a press release. “It is also important to remember that the US Supreme Court can and may issue a stay allowing the 2016 elections to proceed, unimpeded. As absentee ballots have already been mailed, thousands of votes could be cast aside and voters would be disenfranchised if the lower Court’s demands are not stalled.Regardless of the outcome, we are proud of our record and will do our best to represent the people of North Carolina.”
In the proposed new District 5, Stokes County would be grouped with Surry, Forsyth, Yadkin, Allegheny, Wilkes, Alexander, Ashe, Watauga and Avery counties.
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican, represents District 5, which currently includes portions of Davie County.
It is unclear at this moment what effect any changes in the districts might have on the March 15 primary.
Stokes County Board of Elections director Jason Perry said he had not yet received any guidance from the state Board of Elections on how the redistricting would impact the March 15 primary, but redistricting leader Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) said a secondary bill to schedule a second primary for the congressional races may be introduced in the General Assembly.
In a WRAL interview on Feb. 13 State Board of Elections Director Kim Strach said there would definitely be a primary of some sort on March 15.
“There are a lot of other things on the ballot on March 15,” she said. “We will have primary elections on March 15.”
But if a second primary for congressional districts is required, Strach said it could take some time to get them planned.
“There is a lot involved in the mechanics of drawing lines,” she said. “The legislature will have to do that and then the county boards of elections will have to implement that. They will have to make sure that people are in the right district and all of that takes time. We would estimate it would at least be somewhere in June before we could have a standalone congressional primary.”
Perry said if a second primary is required it could cost the county between $16,000 to $20,000 depending on the number of ballots that would need to be printed.
He said the county has already sent out 73 early voting ballots for the March 15 primary, but has only had four returned so far.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.