NC General Assembly moves forward with new voting maps

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Common Cause N.C. held a public hearing on gerrymandering on June 5. The organization is now asking for the General Assembly to add more locations to its public hearings on proposed legislative districts.

The North Carolina General Assembly's new legislative voting district maps are awaiting approval from a three-judge panel. 

The redrawn districts, if approved, would replace 2011 maps, which were shot down by a U.S. District Court for racial gerrymandering in 28 districts: 19 in the House and 9 in the Senate.

Graig Meyer, D-Orange, thinks the new maps are just as bad, if not worse, than the old ones.

“The courts threw out their old maps for being racially gerrymandered," Meyer said. "And instead of drawing more fair and representative maps, they drew maps that will either maintain their majorities or possibly give them a chance to increase their majorities."

After old maps were rejected, the state was given a court-ordered deadline to come up with new districting plans by Sept. 1, which it complied with Aug. 25. 

The panel will now rule whether or not the new maps are constitutional. If not, the judges will be able to redraw the maps themselves.

All of this comes less than six weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court hears North Carolina’s argument on the role of partisanship in redrawing political districts.

Meyer feels that state Republicans are attempting to take advantage of a loophole in the nation's court system.

“Until (the Supreme Court case) happens, Republicans are trying to take advantage of the wiggle room in the law while they still can,” Meyer said.

Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy NC, does not expect the three-judge panel to tolerate the racial breakdown in the new maps.

“(Republicans) were packing black voters into them far beyond what was needed to comply with the Voting Rights Act,” Hall said. “I think there will probably be some adjustments made to them before they’re accepted.”

Hall acknowledged the new maps are an improvement from the previous ones—though not by much.

“I think there’s more competitive districts in the Senate than there were in 2011,” Hall said. “I think the House is probably the same or worse.”

Democrats statewide and nationwide have expressed disapproval toward the new maps in recent days.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., who served under former President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2015, called upon North Carolina’s legislature to “reject the new gerrymandered maps.”

“This week, North Carolinians packed meetings across the state to make clear that these maps would divide communities and diminish the value of their votes,” Holder said in a statement. “The citizens of North Carolina have spoken clearly: The new maps are just as bad as the old illegal maps.”

Meyer is hopeful North Carolina is close to moving past this period of extreme partisanship.

His end goal is a nonpartisan redistricting process for North Carolina.  

“The ability to gerrymander for partisan reasons creates an unresponsive democracy,” Meyer said. “Our country is better when we have a democracy that is truly representative of its own people.”

@jared_webby

state@dailytarheel.com

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