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Do You Live In North Or South Carolina? Some Aren't Sure

Longleaf Pine stand, Forest, Trees,
USFWS/Jack Culpepper

Imagine that you've lived in North Carolina, near the South Carolina line, for generations. Maybe your grandfather worked the land, your father too, and now you. And one day, a state official comes to your door tell you that you actually live in South Carolina. You'll need to change your driver's license. Rather than Governor Pat McCrory, you will now be paying attention to what Governor Nikki Haley is proposing. You've become a Sandlapper, not a Tar Heel.

That's exactly what is happening now.

State officials have been carefully reviewing the state lines between North Carolina and South Carolina. When the line was first drawn in the 1700's, the boundaries were marked by notches in trees and with boulders. But as you can imagine, over time, some of the markers have become unclear.

So officials are trying to re-establish the boundaries so future generations won't have the problem.

'A lot of time you'll hear that people say we're changing the boundary. We're not. We're re-establishing where it was originally surveyed in those original surveys.' - Gary Thompson

Gary Thompson is part of a surveying team that has been reviewing the original NC state line. He's section chief of the North Carolina Geodetic Survey: "A lot of time you'll hear that people say we're changing the boundary. We're not. We're re-establishing where it was originally surveyed in those original surveys."

In some cases, his team is actually walking the state line, trying to re-identify markers.

And this is a big deal: utilities, school districts and taxes could all change based on the determination of the state line. Gary Thompson says that North Carolina hopes to protect those who find that their properties are now primarily in a new state. One proposed bill would allow owners to keep their current utility. Another would allow children to finish school at their current location. There is also proposed legislation to deal with in-state tuition.

The Huffington Post talked with people who will be affected by the line revisions:

Relatively small errors by surveyors using stakes, hatchets and mental arithmetic 240 years ago could mean the end of Victor Boulware's tiny convenience store. For decades, officials thought the land where the store sits was in South Carolina, because maps said the boundary with North Carolina drawn back in the 1700s was just to the north. But modern-day surveyors, using computers and GPS systems, redrew the border to narrow it down to the centimeter. Their results put the new line about 150 feet south of the old one and placed Boulware's Lake Wylie Minimarket in North Carolina, where the gas prices are 30 cents higher and the fireworks that boost his bottom line are illegal. (Read the full article here.)

What happens if the revised line falls straight through your house?

Says Thompson: "There's election laws in both states that define where you would vote if a county or state boundary goes through your home.  ... That is where your master bedroom is. that is where you would vote."

Carol Jackson has been with WUNC since 2006. As Digital News Editor, she writes stories for, and helps reporters and hosts make digital versions of their radio stories. She is also responsible for sharing stories on social media. Previously, Carol spent eight years with WUNC's nationally syndicated show The Story with Dick Gordon, serving as Managing Editor and Interim Senior Producer.
Phoebe Judge is an award-winning journalist whose work has been featured on a numerous national radio programs. She regularly conducts interviews and anchors WUNC's broadcast of Here & Now. Previously, Phoebe served as producer, reporter and guest host for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. Earlier in her career, Phoebe reported from the gulf coast of Mississippi. She covered the BP oil spill and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio. Phoebe's work has won multiple Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards. Phoebe was born and raised in Chicago and is graduate of Bennington College and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
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