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This week the North Carolina General Assembly met to discuss congressional redistricting after a Federal Court decision mandated that the state’scongressional district lines be redrawn by Friday, February 19. The General Assembly held committee meetings to discuss the new maps and Governor McCrorycalled for a special session of the General Assembly to convene to approve the new maps. The General Assembly also made changes to the N.C. congressionalprimary date.
Overview of Redistricting in N.C.
The N.C. General Assembly has been called to redraw the congressional district maps after a Federal Court decided that congressional districts 1 and 12were considered unconstitutional gerrymandering based upon race.
The court gave the state until February 19, 2016 to redraw the maps. The N.C. General Assembly began meeting on Monday, February 15, taking public commentsfor over 5 hours, and hearing from approximately 200 constituents. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, the Joint Select Committee on CongressionalRedistricting met to discuss the criteria needed in order to create constitutionally-compliant maps.
Governor Pat McCrory called for a special session on Wednesdayafternoon. The legislature convened on Thursday to take up two bills, one which would approve the new congressional district map, and the other changesmany aspects of the upcoming primary.
Click HERE to view the new 2016Congressional Plan.
Click HERE to view all data used in creating the new map.
The Redistricting Process in N.C.
The General Assembly must consider five rules when redistricting:
- One person equals one vote, each district is required to be at least approximately in proportion to every other district. Federal law requires single-member districts for all US House seats.
- Consideration of minorities, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) forbids drawing districts that dilute minority strength. All 100 counties are subject to Section 2 of the VRA. Section 2 of the VRA prohibits voting practices or procedures which discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership of a language minority group.
- Impermissible considerations of race, the General Assembly is subject to lawsuits if considerations of race dominate the redistricting process. Due to the 2013 US Supreme Court decision on Shelby County v. Holder, N.C. can no longer use Section 5 of the VRA to gerrymander congressional districts.
- Districts must be contiguous, all parts of a district must touch and there may not be detached parts.
- Division of counties must be minimized, districts are drawn with consideration of county lines along with adherence to the VRA.
History of Redistricting in N.C.
Timeline of Major Events Related to Congressional Redistricting:
2010 Census– The most recent census, in 2010, allowed N.C. a 13th congressional district on the basis ofpopulation growth.
July 2011 Redistricting –The N.C. General Assembly redraws the the state House and Senate, and congressional districts. Click here to read more about the 2011 redistricting process.
November 2012 Elections– Democrats win four of the state’s 13 congressional seats, but won a majority of the state’s votes in House races. Confirming for many the gerrymanderingof the congressional districts for partisan benefit.
October 24, 2013 – Harris v. McCrorycomplaintfiled to challenge the constitutionality of Congressional Districts 1 and 12 as racial gerrymanders in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of theFourteenth Amendment. Read more about all redistricting cases in N.C. here.
April 27, 2015 – Judgment issued by US Supreme Court onAlabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama.
February 5, 2016 – Three-panel judge of the US District Court for the Middle District of N.C. ruled that two of the state’s 13 congressional districts, District 1 andDistrict 12, had been subject to illegal racial gerrymandering. Their order required new maps to be redrawn by the General Assembly byFebruary 19, 2016.
February 9, 2016 – State officials petitioned the US Supreme Court for a stay on the ruling. The Supreme Court is yet to release a decision on the matter. Read more here.
February 13, 2016– Death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia’s death made it less likely that the Supreme Court would issue a stay, read more here.
February 15, 2016 – N.C. General Assembly begins to meet to create a new map in order to comply with the new court ruling. The committee took public comments from fiveregions of the state, hearing from over 200 constituents. Click here to read more.
February 17, 2016 – Governor McCrory calls for a special sessionof the N.C. General Assembly.
February 19, 2016– N.C. General Assembly convenes for day two of the special session. H.B. 2 and S.B. 2 passes both chambers on party lines. Under the state’s constitution,the governor does not have to sign off on S.B. 2, which creates the new congressional maps.
Political versus Racial Gerrymandering
Gerrymandering, or establishing political boundaries to give a particular party political advantage, is a perfectly legal practice in the United States.
Gerrymandering is a powerful tool for politicians to maintain power. The 2011 congressional map helped Republicans win 9 out of 13 seats in the U.S.Congress, while Democrats accounted for the total majority of voters.
Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), Co-Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting, and other members of the Republican Party made itclear that political advantage was taken into consideration in drawing the new maps, stating, “I acknowledge freely that this would be a politicalgerrymander, which is not against the law,” on Wednesday. The maps are drawn to retain the current 10-3 majority.
Democrats have vocally opposed the gerrymandering involved in creating this map, and believe it also violates federal voting law. Historically, theDemocratic Party used and benefitted from gerrymandering when they had power in N.C, a fact that did not go unmentioned in debates on the floor.
Unlike political gerrymandering, packing minority voters into a district to minimize their voice, and impact, is not constitutional, as race and minoritystatus are protected classes. Race can be considered, and many believe it should be considered, but it cannot be a primary consideration.
To read more about political gerrymandering follow the links below:
Overview of the New N.C. Congressional District Maps
The new congressional maps are noticeably different than the 2011 maps. The new maps split 13 counties, a two-thirds reduction from the 2011 map.Republicans have praised the map as more compact with cleaner district lines. Each district was modified in the redrawing of the maps.
The most major change to the map is in District 12. In the 2011 maps, this district was “serpentine” in shape, curling with Interstate-85 from Charlotte toGreensboro. The new district is entirely compacted into Mecklenburg County.
The Senate voted on S.B. 2, 2016 Contingent Congressional Plan, on Thursday, February 18, 2016. The bill passed the Senate by a 32-15 vote. TheHouse took up the bill on Friday, February 19, 2016. The bill passed the House by a 65-43 vote.
To read more about the changes made to the N.C. Congressional map, follow the links below:
Overview of the New Congressional Primary Date of Congressional Primary
The changes to the congressional map may mean a second primary date for N.C. voters. H.B. 2 outlines how the state will handle altered congressionaldistricts and electing representatives to those districts.
The primary election for the presidential, state House and Senate, and various local government races will still be held on March 15, 2016.
However, if a stay is not released, a new filing period will be opened from March 16 through March 25, 2016. A stand-alone congressional primary will thenbe held on June 7, 2016.
Congressional votes on absentee ballots for the March 15 primary will be kept anonymous and will not be counted. A new absentee ballot will be issued forthe stand-alone primary.
Democrats proposed completely canceling the March 15 primary and moving all elections to June 7. An amendment, proposed by Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake)failed by a 32-69 vote on Thursday. Republicans argued that moving the entire election would be confusing to voters and disrupt the democratic process.
To read more about the primary date change, follow the links below:
What do the new maps mean for the N.C. Congressional Primary?
The new Congressional Districts have several major implications on the upcoming primary. Most notably, Rep. Alma Adams (D-12) and Rep. George Holding(R-13) would be
written out of their current districts.
Rep. Adams, who lives in Greensboro, could still run to represent District 12, the infamous serpentine district, as the U.S. Constitution does not requirecongressional candidates to live in the district they wish to represent. Rep. Adams, however, would live 90 miles away from the new District 12 since it islocated entirely in Mecklenburg County.
Rep. Holding’s current district covers parts of Durham and Wake Counties and several surrounding counties. The new district will cover an area fromGreensboro to Statesville. Under the new maps, Rep. Holding will now live in the same district as Rep. David Price (D-4). Rep. Price will likely continueto have a strong hold on the majority Democrat district, which spans across Wake and Durham Counties.
To read more about what these changes will mean for primary races, follow the links below:
A Look Ahead to Next Week
- 9:00am – Joint Primary System and Secondary Subcommittee, Select Committee on strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions
- 10:30am – Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural Economic Resources
- 11:00am – Public Transportation/ Aviation Subcommittee, Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions
- 12:00pm – Ports/ Rail Subcommittee, Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions
- 1:00pm – Blue Ribbon Commission to Study the Building and Infrastructure Needs of the State (2013)
- 2:00pm – Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions
- 10:00am – House Select Committee on Achievement School Districts
- 2:00pm – House Select Committee on Education Strategy Practices
- 2:00pm – House Select Committee on Step Therapy
- 9:00am – Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Subcommittee on Economic Development
- 9:00am – Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services, Subcommittee on Statewide Early Education and Family Support Programs
- 9:30am – House Select Committee on Education Strategy and Practices
- 1:00pm – Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services, Joint Study of Justice and Public Safety and Behavioral Health