NC lawmakers move toward final votes on election maps; legal fight looms

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ByJoel Brown via WTVD logo
Thursday, November 4, 2021
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Final votes in the General Assembly are expected Thursday on the election maps that will decide the balance of political power in this state

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Final votes in the General Assembly are expected Thursday on the election maps that will decide the balance of political power in this state. Republicans hold that power now -- and have been leading this weeks-long process to redraw the maps for the next decade. But the process is under fire and could lead to a legal fight that the state has seen before.

"We stand here today not in shock but disappointed," said Manel Mejia Diaz a voter advocate with left-leaning Democracy NC. His group joined other advocacy groups on the front lawn of the legislature Wednesday, holding signs that read, "Fair Maps Now."

They were there to rally against the Republican-led election map drawing that's lasted for weeks inside the General Assembly.

"We're working together to ensure a fair, transparent and inclusive redistricting process," said Democracy NC's Joselle Torres

Final votes are expected Thursday on all three maps which draw voter lines for the state House, Senate and the state's congressional districts. All of them are expected to favor Republicans when they take effect next year.

One analysis of the House and Senate maps showed Republicans could regain the supermajorities needed to override vetoes from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

The congressional maps could put 10 of the state's 14 congressional seats in GOP hands -- up from the current eight. A Republican windfall despite North Carolina's purple status in statewide elections -- voters evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

At redistricting committee hearings on Wednesday, GOP lawmakers pushed back against criticism the maps are partisan gerrymanders.

"This is a historic process that we've undertaken in both the House and Senate committee," said Caldwell County State Rep. Destin Hall, the Republican chair of the House Redistricting Committee. "It's the most transparent process in the history of North Carolina."

If it sounds like a familiar fight, it is. North Carolina spent a decade in costly legal battles through the 2010s over election map lines drawn on racial and partisan grounds.

Duke professor Jonathan Mattingly testified at one of the trials that overturned maps in 2016. Wednesday, at a Duke-sponsored virtual redistricting forum, Mattingly agreed it's an unfair process with an unfair outcome.

"This happens on both sides of the aisle. Both parties do this across the country," Mattingly said. "So I would like us as a country to get out of the gerrymandering business."

One lawsuit has already been filed. The North Carolina NAACP is challenging the process in state court. More suits could come.

Meantime, GOP leaders are giving no indication of plans to slow down the process. Final votes are expected Thursday. The maps would then become law.