RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – The North Carolina Senate and House on Thursday approved a new dramatically different map for congressional districts that was created by the Senate and now will send it to the courts to see if it’s acceptable .
The Senate passed the map in a straight, party-line vote on Thursday and the House on Thursday evening passed second reading by a vote of 66-53, with at least two Republicans voting against it.
Lawmakers had until Friday to submit their remedial maps to a 3-judge panel at Wake County Superior Court after the NC Supreme Court had ordered a redraw. The courts are expected to complete their review by Feb. 23.
Observers suggested that this map, which includes some sprawling districts, would give the GOP no more than a 9-5 edge in representation and perhaps provide Democrats with a chance at a 7-7 split because of two nearly even districts.
Asher Hilldebrand, a professor at Duke and former Democratic operative, wrote on his Twitter that this map is the most competitive he’s seen but that it still could give the Republicans a 10-4 edge in Washington.
“The NCGOP has been literally all over the map with these congressional districts, but this is a smart play for them,” Hilldebrand wrote. “More competitive overall (with four true swing districts), probably 8/6 R in a “normal” year, but easily 10/4 R in a good R year … e.g. 2022.”
This map makes another significant change to representation across the Piedmont Triad and redraws the sprawling 5th District had stretched from the Tennessee border to Chapel Hill, which some in Orange County had decried.
Guilford County was a point of concern by Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) and others while the map was debated in the House. This approved map slices the county into two districts once again — the first Senate map had kept it whole — and packaged areas with a variety of other counties, some of which it has little apparent relationship, but no connection with Forsyth County, as is the case now and was in the original map.
The Triad cities of High Point, Winston-Salem and Greensboro are in fact in three separate congressional districts, and Harrison argued during the debate about the maps that was a problem because of the extreme common interest among the three.
“We didn’t have a public hearing in Guilford County last fall, the biggest county that did not have one,” she said. “What heard in district meetings in Forsyth and Alamance was how important it was that the Triad stay together.
“There are so many commonalities between Forsyth and Guilford. Now Winston-Salem is heading out. Greensboro is headed up to Rockingham and down to Harnett. High Point runs down to Cabarrus. That’s unacceptable to me.”
She talked about how many municipal splits there were, some of them major areas. She then grilled Redistricting Chair Rep. Destin Hall about the data that had led to this map “I was told there were very different results based on looking at data,” she said.
Then she said the map the House first considered would’ve been a 6-4-4 split for Republican, Democrat and toss-up districts. “Some say this is a 10-4 map in a good GOP year, maybe 8-4-2 in a good year for Democrats. Using 2020 stats, it’s like 10-4 in 2022.
“A 10-4 map got struck down as a gerrymander. I encourage you to vote no.”
The 6th District, where Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) is the incumbent, includes about 3/4ths of the county, along with all of Randolph, Chatham, Lee and Harnett counties. It also contains a small western piece of Rockingham County and a southern slice of Alamance County.
The rest of Guilford County, which would include High Point, Oak Ridge, Summerfield and Stokesdale, would be part of the 8th District and packaged with northern Davidson County and all of Rowan and Cabarrus counties. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord) would be the incumbent there.
That 5th District, where Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) is the incumbent, would lose that hook into Orange but pick up all of Forsyth County and a small northwestern piece of Yadkin County. It lost that small slice of Rockingham. It still includes Stokes, Surry, Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes and Watauga counties.
The Supreme Court on Feb. 4 had ordered new maps because those approved in November by lawmakers were created with extreme partisan gerrymandering designed to give Republicans expanded or cemented control in Washington and Raleigh. 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 appointed three former judges to serve as special masters to help with the process.
Lawmakers have a deadline of Friday to submit their redraws. Both chambers must approve a congressional map, and the Senate must past its own districts. Those votes are scheduled for today if maps can get past committee. The House approved its districts on Wednesday night.
Some other highlights from the Senate’s map
- The 10th District would include almost all Davie, Iredell, Alexander, Caldwell, Avery, Burke, Catawba and Lincoln counties, along with most of Yadkin and a small piece of McDowell. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-Denver) would be the incumbent. Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) is running for the U.S. Senate.
- The southern portion of Davidson County would be part of a meandering 9th District that would include all of Montgomery, Stanly, Union, Anson, Moore, Richmond, Scotland, Hoke, Burke counties and some of Columbus County. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte) told The News & Observer that, if this map holds, he would run in the 9th District, which includes some of his current territory.
- Most of Alamance County would be in the 4th District with all of Caswell, Person, Person, Orange and Durham counties and a majority of Granville County. Incumbent Rep. David Price (D-Durham) is retiring.
- A 2-way split of Mecklenburg County would place Rep. Alma Adams (D-Charlotte) as the incumbent in the 12th and slice off a southwestern piece into the 14th, which is the area where Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-Hendersonville) had indicated he would run under the original maps, rather than in the 11th District, where he is the incumbent.
- House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) told The News & Observer on Thursday that he was reconsidering whether to run in the 14th District after previously saying he wouldn’t. The district is considered to be competitive, voting about 51% Republican in the 2016 and 2020 elections.
- Wake County would be divided into two pieces, with it’s southern portion grouped with counties south of the Triangle to form the 13th District. The rest is in the 2nd District.
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.
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.