After much ado, the newly proposed legislative redistricting maps were released last weekend, with statewide public hearings held on Tuesday, House and Senate committee votes scheduled for today and /or Friday, and possibly a State House floor vote scheduled for either Friday or Monday. Before the process is completed, both legislative houses are expected to have ratified each other’s maps, and Democrats are expected to unveil their own maps.
Unlike in 2011, race was not among the criteria used in drawing the new maps. Democrats, as expected, have already turned thumbs down on the new GOP-leaning maps, which, by order of a three judge US District panel, are supposed to remedy the 28 out of 170 illegal and unconstitutional racial gerrymanders drawn into the 2011 legislative redistricting maps. The three judge panel ordered the districts redrawn a year ago, and the US Supreme Court affirmed that decision last June.
The judicial panel has since, after blasting Republican legislative leaders for deliberately dragging their feet, ordered them to produce remedied maps by Sept. 1 (Sept. 15 at the latest) or else face having a court appointed special master draw them, something that Democrats and many critics of the pending new Republican maps would welcome because it would take the GOP partisanship out of the process.
“My initial impression of the maps is that they’re up to the same shenanigans they were up to before the court slapped them on the wrist. So now, maybe the court will smack ‘em upside the head and they’ll get the message more clearly,” Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue told Spectrum News Monday. Blue added that, even though the Republicans said they would not employ race as one of the criteria in redrawing the maps, there’s little question they used it to their advantage where they could.”
Speakers at the satellite public hearings were just as damning of the maps. In Raleigh, a young mother named “Eva” said she was embarrassed that North Carolina was “no longer a democracy.” She added that the process “feels like computerized apartheid.”
Eva closed by warning Republicans, ‘Don’t act like Nazis – gerrymandering is White supremacy.” As they stand now, 33 of the proposed Senate districts and 76 of the proposed 120 State House districts could be won by Pres. Donald Trump, based on election criteria used to draw the new maps. Only ten of 50 Senate districts will be competitive, an analysis shows, with seven of them leaning Republican.
Only 19 of the 120 House districts are deemed competitive, with 12 leaning Republican. In effect, the GOP would retain their current super majorities in both houses for the 2018 midterm elections (Republicans currently hold 74 House seats and 35 Senate seats).
“The map drawing process was terrible,” opined Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy NC, a non-partisan public policy group. “The end result may be a small improvement, but, overall, our quick review shows that about 90% of the new General Assembly districts are solidly tilted to favor one party or another, mostly to the advantage of the Republican mapmakers.”
“With these new maps, legislative leaders continue to rig our elections, reduce competition, and protect themselves from being held accountable for their actions in Raleigh,” Hall continued.
“They want us to pay our taxes and shut up.”
Even though there was double bunking” of a handful of incumbent lawmakers in some of the newly redrawn districts, for the most part, incumbents were protected. If the maps hold as planned, at least three African-American Democrat State lawmakers will have to fend off a Republican incumbent drawn into the same district come the 2018 midterm elections.
Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, a two-term District 3 Democrat representing Edgecombe, Chowan and Northampton counties, will have to face three term District 1 Republican State Sen. Bill Cook from Beaufort, Camden and Currituck counties in a race for District 3.
In the State House, Rep. Robert Reives II, Democrat from Chatham and Lee counties, is double bunked with Republican Rep. John Sauls of District 51, currently representing Harnett and Lee counties. Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, Wilson County Democrat, has also been double bunked against Republican Rep. Susan Martin, but that district went to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Also, Rep. Bobbie Richardson, a District 7 three term Democrat, representing Franklin and Nash counties, has also been drawn into a Republican-leaning district.
Back to the State Senate, Sen. Angela Bryant, District 4 Democrat of Halifax, Nash and Wilson counties and Chair of the NC Legislative Black Caucus, is being moved into District 11, that is Republican leaning, and went for Trump in 2016, 56-40 percent over Hillary Clinton.
In Forsyth County, Sen. Paul Lowe’s district would change to District 29. Rep. Evelyn Terry and Ed Hanes will retain their current district designations with few precinct changes. Republican representatives Lambeth and Conrad will see changes.
Still, Rep. Terry, who was present at the redistricting hearing in Guilford County Tuesday, is not pleased at all with the Republican-leaning House map.
On both the House and Senate maps there are four new districts drawn that currently don’t have incumbents. In Guilford County, House Rep. Amos Quick III, District 58 Democrat, was also not pleased with how his district was redrawn, saying that people he’s spoken with wanted more stability. Still, regardless of the final configuration, he promises to serve the constituency that he’s given.
“In the totality of the maps, they only tweaked, but did not remedy the reasons why they needed to be redrawn anyway,” Rep. Quick said Tuesday, adding that Black voters have told him that their voice and vote should be treated fairly and constitutionally.