NC lawmakers OK new legislative maps as court deadline looms

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The maps must now go before a three-judge panel.

The Republican-led General Assembly voted on Wednesday to approve new legislative maps ahead of a looming court deadline.

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Sticking to mostly partisan lines, the House and Senate gave the final pass to the other chamber's plans after voting on their own maps earlier this week. Republicans asserted the newly-drawn maps, which were ordered by a federal court, are not based on race.

"It adheres to traditional redistricting principles and it remedies deficiencies found in the previous map," Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett County), argued in the afternoon session. "It splits fewer counties and divides far fewer municipalities than previous plans."

Indeed, the proposed house plan reduces the number of districts that split counties from 49 to 39, and split municipalities from 144 to 78.

Democrats, however, lambasted the GOP maps as "partisan" and accused Republicans of "doubling down on racial gerrymandering."

Many Democrats, including Minority Leader Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake County, urged lawmakers to reject the Republican plans and instead appoint a bipartisan board to redraw the maps.

"We can draw maps that are less partisan, more compact, and maps that don't repeat the racial gerrymander of 2011," Jackson said. "That's what the court expected us to do and I think we'll be back here in 2019 after the court's thrown it out."

North Carolina Democratic Party chairman Wayne Goodwin released the following statement:

"Our state was given a golden opportunity to put voters before politics and Republican leaders did the opposite. Republicans refused to fix their racial gerrymander. They gave the same dark arts gerrymandering expert that got us into this mess taxpayer money to rig the system again. And they refused to listen to the very people they're elected to office to represent. These new maps fly in the face of what was ordered, and now the courts must step in and fix what the GOP refused to do."

Earlier this summer, a panel of three federal judges ruled lawmakers must redraw 18 House districts and nine Senate districts by September 1. The judges also ruled out special elections.

The Supreme Court ruled the maps were unconstitutional because they packed minority voters into certain districts to lessen their political power.

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