NC Senate advances redrawn congressional map

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Tuesday, October 24, 2023
NC Senate advances redrawn congressional map
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Republicans in the North Carolina Senate advanced a map proposal that could position the GOP to pick up at least three seats in the U.S. House next year.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Republicans in the North Carolina Senate advanced a map proposal Monday for the state's congressional districts beginning in 2024 that could position the party to pick up at least three seats in the U.S. House next year.

The potential gains would be a boon to congressional Republicans seeking to preserve and expand their majority in the narrowly divided chamber.

The Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee approved a plan for North Carolina's 14 U.S. House seats, creating 10 districts that appear to favor a Republican, three that favor a Democrat, and one that could be considered competitive, according to statewide election data included with the proposal. Both parties hold seven seats each in the state's congressional delegation after a panel of trial judges fashioned temporary boundaries for the 2022 election.

The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on the proposed congressional map, and it could receive final approval in the similarly GOP-led House as early as Wednesday. Redistricting legislation cannot be vetoed by the Democratic governor.

Democrats whose seats are threatened by the plan include first-term Reps. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte and Wiley Nickel of Cary, and second-term Rep. Kathy Manning of Greensboro. State Republicans have placed the three Democrats in districts that Jackson said are "totally unwinnable." Democratic Rep. Don Davis of Greenville appears to be in the state's only toss-up district.

Manning called the Republican proposal "an extreme partisan gerrymander" that she said undermines voters in a true swing state with a record of tight elections for statewide office.

"These maps were created for one purpose only: to ensure Republicans win more House seats so that they can maintain control of the U.S. House of Representatives," Manning said. "They are not a reflection of the best interests of North Carolinians but rather an offering to the national Republican Party."

Sen. Ralph Hise, a Mitchell County Republican and one of the congressional map's chief architects, said he's confident it meets all legal criteria and will stand up in court, even if there are legal challenges.

The proposed maps could mean three extra seats for the NCGOP if the maps are approved.

"I feel like we've laid out our criteria and we met them, and we think this map best represents North Carolina," he told reporters Monday.

Redistricting committees in both chambers also approved proposals Monday for new state House and Senate boundaries that Duke University mathematician Jonathan Mattingly, who studies redistricting, said would help Republicans maintain or expand their majorities.

Robert Reives, the House Democratic Leader, told ABC11 that normally the maps are done every 10 years, but because of the decision by the new GOP-majority NC Supreme Court, they had to do it again.

Reives said it would be surprising if the maps hold up to legal scrutiny because there would be urban areas with Republican districts.

"We believe that all of our litigation, all prior precedent has said that partisan gerrymandering should not be allowed...putting them in districts, packing them in because of their party," Reives said.

The United States Supreme Court has said racial gerrymandering is not allowed but it has not said anything about partisan gerrymandering, a practice commonly used by both major political parties.

"NC continues to grow, NC is evenly split as far as its partisan makeup and at some level, it's going to depend on what voters want to see," Revies said. "A lot of the issues we see people can't stand the gridlock, they can't stand the polarization, well, that comes from the drawing of the districts."

According to an analysis of the proposed Senate map by Mattingly's research group on gerrymandering, Republicans can "reasonably expect" to obtain a supermajority in the chamber, even when votes for Democrats make up more than half of ballots cast statewide.

Democrats would have a better chance of breaking up the GOP supermajority in the state House, he said, but that chamber's proposed map still strongly favors Republicans.

"Our overarching goal in the creation of this House plan was to create Republican-leaning districts where possible ... following traditional redistricting principles," Rep. Destin Hall, a top Republican redistricting official, said in committee.

Both the House and Senate plan to hold first-chamber votes on their respective state legislative proposals Tuesday.

"The fact is that both parties are competitive under these maps, we're going to have to campaign very hard as Democrats will, as well in the fall, and I don't think that map changes that calculus at all." said Hall, "It's still competitive. There are going to be a lot of competitive races in this map ... by no means do we feel like have a majority with this map."

Hall added that Republicans will have to "go out and keep it."

Several outspoken Senate Democrats have been placed in the same districts as other incumbents under the map proposal, which could receive its first floor vote Tuesday. Democratic Sens. Lisa Grafstein of Wake County and Natasha Marcus of Mecklenburg County say they may consider relocating to another district if the map becomes final.

Although Hise said those lawmakers were not targeted, Grafstein said she thinks her advocacy for transgender residents might have led Republicans to draw her to an unfavorable district.

"I've tried to be outspoken and not care about the consequences," Grafstein, the state's only openly gay senator, said Monday. "Whatever the intent, it sends a signal certainly that folks like Senator Marcus and myself who are outspoken are being treated differently."

Hannah Schoenbaum, corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative contributed.