Why a political analyst says state Republicans are ‘pushing the envelope’ with redistricting drafts

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Ahead of public hearings next week on potential new electoral district maps, state lawmakers are posting drafts of those maps online, with one analyst saying Republicans are “pushing the envelope.”

Following the 2020 Census, legislators have to redraw the districts for Congress and the state General Assembly. Because Republicans control the state legislature, they control that process in North Carolina. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) does not have veto power over redistricting maps. 

They are posting proposed maps online.

“The Republicans are pushing the envelope in terms of political advantage with the maps. If you look at some of the maps, they have carved up Wake County and Mecklenburg County, the two largest counties and the two most Democratic counties,” said Meredith College political analyst David McLennan. “It’s the idea that if you can break up the Democratic districts and put more Democratic voters with a lot more Republican voters, that gives the Republicans more advantage.” 

Currently, North Carolina has 13 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, with Republicans holding eight of those seats and Democrats controlling five. Because of the state’s population growth, North Carolina will get an additional seat for the next decade. 

Republicans are looking ahead to the 2022 elections as they try to take back control of Congress from the Democrats, who hold narrow majorities in both the House and Senate. 

Under the maps posted so far, McLennan says there are scenarios where Republicans could get advantages of 11-3 or 10-4.  

“I think North Carolina is one of, probably, four states (Georgia, Texas, and Florida) that Republicans have identified as real opportunities for pickup,” said McLennan. 

Lawmakers announced public hearings will take place next week on Monday and Tuesday afternoon. More details on the locations for the in-person hearings in Raleigh and remote locations in other parts of the state are being posted here.

Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said for now the state Senate is taking the lead on developing potential Congressional maps while the House and Senate each draw maps for their own chambers. 

That process is unfolding in two rooms at the legislative complex with cameras live streaming. 

“Everything is being done in the light of day, live-streamed on the Internet. Folks can see how it’s developed. It’s a pretty amazing model,” said Moore. 

James Pearce, North Carolina organizing manager for the non-partisan group RepresentUs, said even with that process playing out in public it still allows politicians in power to draw districts to their advantage. 

His group is working with experts at Princeton University who have been analyzing proposed maps in North Carolina and all over the country. They recently gave C and F grades to Congressional maps proposed by Republicans and an A grade to one proposed by a Democrat, click here to view.

“While they’re probably better than the ones we have seen in previous redistricting cycles in years past, they don’t fix all of these problems,” he said. 

His group also criticized Democrats in Illinois for proposing a map there that lacked fairness, giving it an F. 

“There has not been a price to pay for representatives on both sides of the aisle historically for doing this kind of thing, except from the courts,” he said. “This is not a problem that is owned by anyone place or any one political party. It is a problem that is embedded in our political system.” 

In North Carolina, McLennan said it’s “almost guaranteed” there will be lawsuits filed in response to whatever maps the General Assembly approves. 

“(Democrats) may be left solely to rely on the judiciary to remedy the maps,” he said. 

Depending on how that unfolds, he said it could impact the timing of next year’s primary election, which is scheduled for March 8. 

“If we started seeing the court cases push into 2022, that would really put the March primaries in jeopardy,” he said.  

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