RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) — Five members of the North Carolina House voted against a new map for their districts, and one of them was Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro), a member of the House Redistricting Committee.

The maps, adjusted to address partisan gerrymandering issues identified by the courts, passed, 115-5, but Harrison said she argued against the map because she thinks it will face legal challenges. The remainder of the delegation from the Triad voted for the bill.

Representative Pricey Harrison

“Oh I argued against and voted no, but I am glad they were able to work together,” Harrison, an 8-term incumbent, wrote in a text message to WGHP.

She said she voted against the maps because she sees a potential voting rights issue likely to end up in litigation. She cited the clusters in Wayne County and “gerrymanders in Forsyth and Guilford [counties].”

The Supreme Court on Feb. 4 had ordered new maps because those approved in November by lawmakers were done so with extreme partisan gerrymandering designed to give Republicans expanded or cemented control in Washington and Raleigh.

State House districts
The map the NC House approved for its legislative voting districts. (NC HOUSE)

Just because each chamber 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.

The Supreme Court ordered the General Assembly to complete its redraw process by Friday. Lawmakers convened this morning and are considering a new congressional map – the House and Senate are working off the base of a new map released today by the Senate – and state Senate districts.

More competitive

The approved House map shows some lines that have moved slightly and perhaps some of the 120 districts that are more competitive.

Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College, did a quick analysis by using a formula devised from voting records from the 2020 elections for president, U.S. Senate and governor. His math indicated 36 strong GOP seats and 33 strong Democrat seats. He believed 17 to lean Republican and 12 to lean Democrat, but in the competitive districts the Democrats would have a 15-7 edge. That could mean a 60-60 split.

Asher D. Hilldebrand, an associate professor at Duke University, wrote on his Twitter feed on Wednesday that, in his quick analysis, he saw a 55 solid GOP districts and 41 solid Democrat districts.

He said he thought of the 24 competitive districts that 15 would lean Democrat and nine would lean Republican. He listed District 62, where John Faircloth (R-Greensboro) is the incumbent and District 59, where Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett) is the incumbent, among the Democrat-leaning/toss-up districts. Faircloth has served since 2011 and Hardister since 2013.

Across the Triad, only District 71 (Rep. Evelyn Terry) and 72 (Rep. Amber Baker) in Winston-Salem are seen by Hilldebrand to be solidly Democratic. Hilldebrand wrote that these maps are “clearly fairer” but that “it’s unlikely to produce a Dem majority even in a wave election.”

“But while politically it is a better map for Dems, on principle it’s not a good process and a clear violation of Voting Rights Act and NC Supreme Court precedent,” Harrison said.

What’s next

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. The trial court on Wednesday appointed three special masters to oversee the 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.