(WGHP) — The North Carolina Senate adopted its new voting maps today despite numerous amendments and pleas by Democrats to alter them.
The bill passed, 26-19, along party lines, which is quite different than the 115-5 vote in the state House. State Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake) made an impassioned plea for Republicans to debate the amendments, all of which were tabled along party-line votes without discussion.
Blue decried the process for creating and reviewing the maps, the charge from the North Carolina Supreme Court’s ruling that required them to redraw the maps and what he saw as a history of ignoring the obvious.
“I’m still reminded that the system belongs to the people,” Blue said. “You can rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic before you go down with the ship. They [Republicans] let this thing languish for an entire decade because it took us eight years to fix the gerrymanders, some racial, some others, from the maps in 2011. The court said this time we will fix it from the start.”
Two of the proposed amendments came from state Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro), who said he in presenting the amendment that the map didn’t adequately serve Guilford County.
As drawn state Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Greensboro) would be the incumbent in District 28, which basically is a circle around downtown Greensboro, and Garrett would be positioned in District 27, which is western Greensboro, the High Point/Jamestown area and southwestern Guilford Country. Most of the county’s land — along with Rockingham County, would belong to Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) in District 26.
Garrett proposed a rearrangement of the district lines to create basically a southern district and two larger north districts divided mostly by Church Street. Both he and Robinson would be double-bunked in the northwestern area.
“If you adopt this map, you can get rid of me,” he said in his pitch. “Both Sen. Robinson and I live in that district. I would not run against my seatmate.”
Garrett said later that he was willing to sacrifice his position to repair what he thought was a disservice. In his speech he called the creation of this map the “same old back of tricks as last fall.”
He was referring to the process in which the General Assembly adopted the maps in November that the Supreme Court through out for being partisan gerrymanders designed to cement or expand GOP control.
Garrett also offered a second amendment that didn’t double-bunk him with Garrett, but both were tabled without further discussion, as were the other seven pitched by Democrats.
“I hope this is not deja vu all over again,” Blue said.
Just because each chamber of the General Assembly approves maps doesn’t mean they will become the actual districts used when voters go to their polls. These maps will have to be submitted to a 3-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court and then to the North Carolina Superior Court for approval before they can be implemented. That court also appointed three former judges to act as special masters to assist with the process.
“This process was collaborative in the beginning,” Blue said. “But you’ve seen all the amendments and discussions. What did you do with every single discussion that was in the big map that was introduced? You have discarded them like they had no relevance.”
Of the 50 senate seats, a party would need to have 30 to have a supermajority. The GOP has a 28-22 edge. Catawba College professor and redistricting expert Michael Bitzer told WRAL-TV in Raleigh that he saw the new map as likely electing 22 Republicans and 18 Democrats, with 10 seats competitive, six of those more favorable to Democrats.
- Forsyth County would be divided between Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Kernersville), who also has Stokes County, and Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Winston-Salem). Rep. Amy Galey (R-Alamance) would continue in District 25, which includes northwestern Randolph County. The rest of Randolph County, along with Montgomery, Richmond, Anson and eastern Union counties, is ceded to Sen. David Craven (R-Asheboro) in District 29.
- Davidson and Davie counties are listed with Sen. Steve Jarvis as the incumbent in District 30. Caswell, Person and Orange counties would form District 23, with Valerie Foushee (D-Orange) as its listed incumbent.
- District 36, which would be comprised of Surry, Yadkin, Wilkes and Alexander counties, has no listed incumbent.
What happens now?
The House and Senate both are considering maps for congressional districts. The Senate offered a new version this morning. Each will consider the map separately, but ultimately they will have to agree on a final draw.
The House had been using as its base map a version put forward Wednesday by the Senate, but some sort of adaptation will be required. None of the maps is subject to a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper.
Why this happened
This process and the court review began when a 3-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court in early January had ruled that the legislature was guilty of extreme partisan gerrymandering but that, essentially, the state constitution gave lawmakers the responsibility to draw the maps and partisan gerrymandering wasn’t defined and couldn’t be addressed.
Supreme Court Justices, in a 4-3 decision along partisan lines, granted the appeal filed by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, the Harper group of plaintiffs and Common Cause and gave lawmakers until Friday to produce maps for review by the Wake County Superior Court panel of judges who first handled this case.
That court then would pass along these maps to the Supreme Court by Feb. 23 for final approval. Justices last week said they would appoint a special master to oversee this process and requested nominations for that role from all interested parties, but there has been no name announced.
With the maps in motion again, candidate filing is scheduled to resume at 8 a.m. on Feb. 24 and continue through March 5, with the primary election now scheduled for May 17. There has been speculation those dates could move – the legislature voted to do so, but Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed that measure – but the courts have not addressed that aspect.