At marathon public hearing over legislative maps, lawmakers get an earful

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Plenty of people made their opinions known to lawmakers Tuesday.

The color-coded maps unveiled during the weekend by Republicans were all over the hearing room. But many of the people who showed up at the hearing room were unhappy they had so little time to digest what the maps meant.

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Still, they had plenty to say - 56 people spoke at the hearing that went on for 4 and 1/2 hours.

"I was told you don't hate the player, you hate the game. In this game, you must hate both because the game is rigged and it's not rigged in favor of the people," said Raleigh resident Michael Eisenberg.

Inside the hearing room in Raleigh and the five others teleconferenced into the legislature from across the state - the sentiment was overwhelmingly against the newly-redrawn legislative maps.

Most of the public's vitriol was saved for Republican lawmakers who were forced to draw the new districts that voters use to elect state senators and representatives after courts ruled the maps drawn in 2011 relied too heavily on the race of voters - diluting black political power.

Republicans said these new maps do not factor in race. But, they are drawn in Republicans' political favor, likely protecting GOP super-majorities at the legislature - even in this state where President Donald Trump won by just 3 points last November.

"And while I realize it's still legal. It's not ethical. It's not right and it's not long for this world," said Cory Williams echoing a theme heard many times during the hearing - that North Carolina should take redistricting out of the hands of partisan lawmakers and install a non-partisan panel to draw legislative maps.

"We deserve maps that don't protect incumbents who won based on maps that were ruled racially gerrymandered," said Gina Cruz, director of the NC Progressive Turnout Project.

Most of the lawmakers who remained in the hearing room did not speak. This was the day to listen to the public - at least for three minutes at a time.
"Your decision is already made. It's a sham!" Gloria Smith said during her time at the lectern, before her time expired and the sergeant-at-arms cut the microphone off. She shouted, "People are frustrated," before finally taking her seat.

"We will fight back at the ballot box," said Gerald Givens Jr., vice-president of the Raleigh/Apex branch of the NAACP. "We will fight at the court, fight along with the NAACP and our coalition partners."

Now armed with the public input, lawmakers in the house and senate are expected to begin voting on the maps this week. Committee leaders say to expect final passage by next Wednesday.

The state has until September 1 to comply with the court's deadline to submit the new maps.
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politicsstate politicsgeneral assemblyrepublicansdemocratsvotingnorth carolina newsNorth Carolina
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