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Floor votes power forward congressional, legislative redistricting maps

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(The Center Square) – Congressional and legislative redistricting maps advanced in floor votes, respectively, of the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Senators voted 28-18 along party lines to approve Senate Bill 757 to redraw the state’s 14 legislative districts. Democrats said the map violates both the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment.

Legislative leaders have said they intend to approve redistricting maps by the end of October, and could finish the work as soon as Wednesday.

SB757 is expected to shift the state’s congressional delegation from a 7-7 split between Republicans and Democrats to lean 10 districts toward Republicans, three toward Democrats, and create one toss-up district.

Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, was among several Democrats who said SB757 will result in “weakening black votes” in several areas of the state.

“The map separates heavily black precincts in east Greensboro … and lumps those residents with Randolph County that has a black population of less than 10%,” he said as one example.

Chaudhuri proposed an amendment to keep the congressional districts used in 2022 that was tabled with a party-line vote. That map was court-ordered and produced a split that a computer said was likely only 1.7% of 1,000 simulations.

North Carolina’s redistricting process is drawing national attention for its potential to shift the political landscape in Washington, where Republicans currently hold a slim 221-212 majority in the U.S. House, with vacancies in Rhode Island and Utah.

Senators also voted along party lines Tuesday to approve new state Senate districts, though an objection to third reading by Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, means Senate Bill 758 still needs a final vote.

Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, said out of the state’s 50 Senate districts, only seven in SB758 “have changed from the map used in 2022 with some political impact.” The map double-bunks two Senate Democrats, one in Wake County and another in Mecklenburg County.

Several Democrats questioned Daniel, the chief architect of the Senate map, on those changes and others that impact predominantly black precincts. Daniel said efforts were made to keep communities whole, when possible, and stressed “racial data was not used” to craft the boundaries.

“I would suggest rather than us going down this road … we fix this thing while we have a chance,” said Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue of Wake County. “This map … does not satisfy the requirements (in law) and does not pass muster under the U.S. Constitution.”

In the lower chamber, House Bill 898 to redraw the state’s 120 House districts also passed along party lines with a vote of 62-44.

The House map, crafted by an Ohio consultant without racial data, ensures “no members who are running for reelection in North Carolina are double-bunked,” said Rep. Destin Hall, R-Caldwell.

Hall also pushed back on claims from activists and in the media that the state House map constitutes an egregious gerrymander, noting a “long term shift in the state politically.”

Democrats “are no longer competitive … in an overwhelming majority of counties in our state,” he said. “Since 2012, no Democratic candidate has won even 30 of 100 counties in a gubernatorial election.”

HB898 “simply reflects the unique political geography of North Carolina,” Hall said.

Republicans approved one amendment to the bill to address concerns about splitting Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, swapping two precincts in Buncombe County to keep the campus whole.

Other proposed amendments from Democrats to address the Voting Rights Act were tabled along party lines. House Democrats raised many of the same concerns about Black voters as their counterparts in the upper chamber, though Hall countered there’s no evidence of “legally sufficient racially polarized voting” in North Carolina.

Several Democrats, including House Minority Leader Robert Reives of Durham County, also bemoaned a lack of transparency and cooperation in the map drawing process, despite several amendments requested by Democrats that were adopted in committee.

“This doesn’t give us representative government. Period.” Reives said.

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