Redistricting maps unveiled ahead of Thursday hearings

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(The Center Square) – Legislation on proposed state and congressional district maps was released in bill filings Wednesday ahead of scheduled hearings on Thursday.

North Carolina House redistricting leaders filed House Bill 898 regarding proposed new state House districts, while their counterparts in the upper chamber put forth Senate bills 756 and 757 to set new congressional districts, and Senate Bill 758 to realign state Senate districts.

The legislation follows three public hearings earlier this month in the third attempt in as many years to reset political boundaries in line with population changes in the decennial census.

The state legislative website has a home for redistricting, and takes users to the legislative bills and images of the maps. All is in public view. It features a district plan comparison tool to compare to previous maps.

The legislation offers two options for congressional maps, with SB756 to split Wake and Mecklenburg counties into three parts, and Guilford County into two, and SB757 to split all three into three parts.

The options would be troublesome for Democratic incumbent Reps. Kathy Manning, Jeff Jackson and Wiley Nickel. North Carolina’s 14 seats in the U.S. House, a 7-7 split, could change to 10-4 or 11-3 in favor of Republicans.

Prior to the 2022 midterms, the split was 9-4 GOP in 2013-15 and 10-3 in 2015-17, 2017-19 and 2019-21.

One of the plans would also double bunk Democratic Reps. Don Davis and Valerie Foushee, representatives for Districts 1 and 4, respectively.

“It appears the two Congressional Maps being debated by #ncpol #ncga would elect 10 @NCGOP members and 3 @NCDemParty members with 1 swing or lean GOP seat,” Dallas Woodhouse, the former state GOP party leader now at American Majority, posted to social media.

Thursday hearings on the legislation are scheduled for the House Redistricting Committee at 11 a.m. and in the Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee at 2 p.m.

“This map adheres to established redistricting principles and complies with all legal guidelines,” a prepared statement by bill sponsors for HB898 says. Those sponsors are Republican Reps. Destin Hall of Watauga County, Jason Saine of Lincoln County, and Sarah Stevens of Surry County. “We look forward to voting on this proposed legislation next week.”

Legislative leaders have said they intend to approve the maps by the end of the month.

During the last round of redistricting, maps crafted by the General Assembly in 2021 were immediately challenged in court and eventually blocked as unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court. The justices, four Democrats in favor, ordered Republican-majority lawmakers to redraw the boundaries.

A second attempt was also blocked, resulting in a congressional map crafted by special masters that led to the even split between Democrats and Republicans in the 2022 midterm election.

Voters in that same election shifted the state’s high court majority from Democrat to Republican. The panel overturned the decision in April and ordered new congressional and legislative maps.

While state legislative maps are expected to remain largely the same as those used in 2022, testimony during the legal wrangling last year suggested a shift to the right was likely for congressional districts.

Jowei Chen, political scientist at the University of Michigan, found 7-in-10 of the 1,000 simulations ran produced a 9-5 split favoring the GOP, while another 9% came out 10-4. Only 1.3% were 7-7.

The state’s voter rolls, as of this past Saturday, are nearly even thirds for the more than 7.3 million registered – 36.4% unaffiliated, 32.8% Democrats and 30.1% Republicans.

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