RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The state House of Representatives and Senate both approved new electoral districts for the chamber on Tuesday as Republicans seek to retain control of the General Assembly.
In a 67-49 vote, the House voted for the new district maps for that chamber. The Senate later voted 27-22 to approve them, as well.
The GOP is leading the state’s redistricting process, as lawmakers decided what the new districts will be for both the state legislature and North Carolina’s 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“This time around we undertook a different process, a transparent process,” said Rep. Destin Caldwell (R-Caldwell), who led the redistricting effort in the House, which included livestreaming the map-drawing process over the last several weeks.
Democrats have criticized the proposed maps, saying they believe they give Republicans an unfair advantage in next year’s election.
“Ranking us against even to similarly situated states, we seem to be going back down the path of partisan gerrymandering,” said Rep. Robert Reives, the Democratic leader in the House.
Independent analyses of the Republicans’ proposed maps have found the party would have a significant advantage in next year’s elections.
The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, which has been analyzing potential maps as they’ve been drawn, found Republicans would have enough safe seats to maintain their majorities in the House and Senate.
“It looks like they’ve done a good job in terms of drawing districts so that it does protect their majority. And, there’s a possibility for adding a few seats,” said Meredith College political analyst David McLennan of the House and Senate maps. “It may take a good election turnout for Republican voters in 2022. But, it’s not out of the realm of possibility at all that the supermajority could be re-established by Republicans.”
In that scenario, Republicans would be able to more easily override vetoes issued by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. They held a supermajority in the legislature for the first two years of his first term.
State Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake), who is running for Congress instead of seeking re-election to the General Assembly, questioned whether Democrats would hold onto enough seats to be able to sustain Cooper’s vetoes.
“I think it’s a certainty that Republican-proposed maps will create a Republican majority,” he said. “I think the only question will be, will Democrats have a chance to sustain Gov. Cooper’s veto the next two years. And, that’s going to be a close question.”
Republicans pushed back on the criticism from Democrats.
“We have not considered any political data in doing this,” said Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) on Tuesday as a committee discussed that chamber’s proposed district map.
Common Cause North Carolina and other non-partisan groups have sued Republican legislative leaders over the House and Senate maps, saying they should factor in racial demographic data to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Courts previously threw out maps Republicans drew for racial gerrymandering.
“They litigated to limit our ability to use racial data. We’re choosing, as we did in 2019, not to use racial data. And now, they’re litigating saying we should use racial data,” said Sen. Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus), one of the members of the Senate leading the redistricting process. “We take our role and the legal precedents that guide it seriously. We reject the notion that we should flout binding precedent and clear guidance from the courts even when facing a lawsuit.”