It's back to the drawing board, literally. Beginning with a public hearing in Raleigh Tuesday night, the legislature will redraw State House district boundaries in Pender and New Hanover counties. The area is currently served by Hampstead Republican Carolyn Justice in the 16th District, the area's only African American legislator, Democrat Sandra Spaulding Hughes of Wilmington, in the 18th District, and Republican Danny McComas of Wilmington in the 19th District. That could affect the balance of power among our local delegation to Raleigh. But how did we get here? After a series of lawsuits earlier this decade challenging the way Pender County was represented in the legislature, lawmakers put the county in two house districts: District 16, covering southeast Pender and northeast New Hanover; District 18, covering western Pender and snaking into downtown Wilmington. It's a map that set off even more legal challenges and that last year ended up in the US Supreme Court. At the high court, the state argued the 18th District helped concentrate minority voting power as required by the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Critics claimed the district violated a state constitutional requirement, known as the Whole County Provision, which aims to keep counties from being split for voting districts. In a narrow decision in March, the Supreme Court ruled the district unconstitutional. In his opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that because African Americans did not make up at least half the eligible voters in the 18th District, the voting rights act could not trump the whole county provision. Now, lawmakers will redraw the Pender and New Hanover lines before the 2010 primaries. Those new lines could also create a domino effect among districts across North Carolina when the state is reapportioned after the 2010 census. The public hearing on the redistricting starts Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. in Raleigh and runs until eight this evening. You can email comments to PNH.email@example.com .
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