RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The General Assembly is expected to vote on new district maps next week after lawmakers spent much of Thursday going over Republican-backed proposals to redraw the lines for North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats and the state legislature.
Republicans unveiled their plans on Wednesday, which included two separate proposals for the new congressional districts. Both are significant departures from the current districts, which were drawn by the courts and led to an even split of seven Democrats and seven Republicans being elected in 2022.
The possible congressional maps being considered now both favor Republicans flipping at least three of those districts. One map would make it easier for the GOP to win a fourth seat, leading to an 11-3 split between Republicans and Democrats representing the state in the U.S. House of Representatives.
CBS 17 obtained a letter the Southern Coalition for Social Justice sent to state lawmakers this month calling on them to preserve records they’ve produced in the process of drawing the maps.
As part of the state budget enacted earlier this month, Republicans included a provision that makes redistricting documents no longer subject to open records laws. State lawmakers will have discretion to determine whether any of their records are public.
“As litigation is reasonably foreseeable at this juncture, the North Carolina General Assembly would engage in spoliation by destroying, materially altering, or failing to preserve any evidence related to the redrawing of congressional and state legislative voting plans,” Hilary Harris Klein, an attorney for the SCSJ writes in the letter.
Sen. Natasha Marcus (D-Mecklenburg) pressed Republicans about the matter Thursday.
“If you’re not agreeing at this point at least to make them public, whatever records you may have, I wonder if you’re taking steps to at least preserve those records?” she asked Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke).
Sen. Daniel did not directly say what Republicans are doing in anticipation of likely litigation over the maps.
“We are taking the advice of our legal counsel with regard to, I guess, any pending litigation and will certainly follow their guidance,” Sen. Daniel said.
A likely legal issue is whether the proposed congressional maps violate the Voting Rights Act, which would be taken up in federal court.
Republicans also said there is no plan to entertain public comment in person now that the maps have been released. There is a portal where people can submit written comments on the legislature’s website. The legislature held public hearings a few weeks ago before the maps were available.
Both plans Republicans released make significant changes to the 14th Congressional district, which is currently represented by Democrat Jeff Jackson, who lives in Charlotte.
“If either of these maps become final, it means I’m toast in Congress,” he said in a video posted Thursday on social media. “I’m not the only one. I’ve got two or three colleagues who are gonna be in the same situation.”
The new version of that district would extend from Mecklenburg County to the west and would become much more favorable to Republicans.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) has long been rumored to be planning a run for Congress and could run in that district. While he’s announced he will not seek re-election to the General Assembly, he has not said what he’ll do in 2024.
The new districts for the state legislature also would benefit Republicans as they seek to maintain their veto-proof supermajorities in the House and Senate.
“It doesn’t lock in any majority at all for the rest of the decade. Anyone who thinks that, they’re making a mistake. We’ve still got to go out there and campaign very hard,” said Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell). “What will determine if we have majorities in this body will be the principles that we’ve passed throughout this decade and this session as well.”
House Democratic leader Rep. Robert Reives said while polarization fuels voter behavior, he doesn’t think the new maps eliminate the potential for Democrats to retake the House at some point.
“And we don’t know how the national politics will affect it. So, we feel good about our opportunities to get a majority. Obviously, these maps make it harder,” he said. “What happened with the supermajority here in this state this year, some of the things that could have been focused on and then things that we actually ended up focused on, I wonder how many people look at that and see a positive.”