RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Republicans in the state legislature are expected to unveil their plans this week to redraw North Carolina’s 14 congressional districts, as well as, the seats for the General Assembly, which will have significant impacts on the 2024 election.
Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) said he expects the proposed maps to be available to the public on Wednesday. State House and Senate committees have scheduled meetings for Thursday.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper does not have the power to veto redistricting bills. That means the new maps will become law after the legislature adopts them, which could happen next week.
While he didn’t reveal details, Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) said the proposed congressional districts will change “a little more significantly” than the current state legislative districts will.
North Carolina is currently represented by seven Democrats and seven Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. The state Supreme Court, which had a Democratic majority at the time, adopted the current districts after throwing out districts state Republicans drew, deeming them to be illegal partisan gerrymanders.
Following the 2022 election, Republicans now have a majority on the court. Earlier this year, the court reversed the previous ruling, giving Republicans in the legislature more latitude to draw the districts.
Chris Cooper, an expert on state politics at Western Carolina University, says he expects Republicans will draw the congressional districts to make it possible for the GOP to flip three to four seats currently held by Democrats.
“It’s huge. We’re talking about moving a battleground state, which North Carolina certainly is, from an even split to the one party gaining a few seats out of that,” said Cooper. “It’s an incredibly big deal in any year, particularly given how tight the country is right now, how tight the U.S. Congress is right now.”
Cooper said gains Republicans make in North Carolina through redistricting could be offset by gains Democrats make in other states, such as Alabama, where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Republicans.
Sen. Hise did not say what criteria Republicans in North Carolina used in drawing the districts but said they would reveal that along with the maps.
“I have no specific numbers that we have strived for in doing maps,” said Hise. “No, I have no goal of setting X number of districts either or as our current maps are drawn by the court, I also have no goal of saying 7-7 is our goal. We are drawing fair and contiguous maps.”
While the committees are scheduled to discuss the new maps Thursday, there will be no votes on them.
“Members will be free to open amendments here on the floor as well. That’s our process for passing a bill, and it doesn’t change for redistricting,” said Hise.
Chris Cooper says he expects the following four Democrats to be the most vulnerable: Rep. Jeff Jackson, Rep. Kathy Manning, Rep. Wiley Nickel, and Rep. Don Davis.
Jackson, who represents parts of Mecklenburg and Gaston counties, himself has said he expects Republicans to use the redistricting process “as an opportunity to take me out.”
Sen. Graig Meyer (D-Orange) said, “I think that the biggest obstacle to Republicans’ ability to gerrymander is still the Voting Rights Act and the limitations on racial gerrymandering.”
Meyer said when his party was in power that Democrats “shouldn’t have done it either” when it comes to gerrymandering districts.
He noted that when Republicans were out of power, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger spoke in favor of creating an independent redistricting process.
“The U.S. Congress is closely divided. The country is closely divided. Every seat that gets drawn in a gerrymandered map potentially the Congress in one direction or another,” said Meyer. “North Carolina could have an approach that shows the nation how a divided state and a divided country could do things in a way that actually promotes competitive elections.”