One down. One to go. The House passed a new district map, and it’s on its way to the Senate.
It was a grueling week. After a three-judge Superior Court panel handed down its ruling last week in Common Cause v. Lewis, the General Assembly had two weeks to pass new maps addressing partisan outliers — that is, county groupings the court said, were gerrymandered to give Republicans an extreme partisan advantage.
The House passed a map Friday, Sept. 13. Among the 14 county groupings requiring changes, House members passed 13 of them in a 68-42 vote. The 14th — and most controversial — passed 60-50.
For three days leading up to the vote, the House Redistricting Committee selected, debated, and amended its map, using committee room computers the public could monitor in real time. Twelve county groupings passed the committee unanimously, and one passed with a single dissenting vote.
The final grouping, Pender-Columbus-Robeson, generated extensive debate that ended in a party-line vote on House Bill 1020, both in the committee and when it was later discussed on the floor.
House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, D-Wake, proposed an amendment to the contested grouping on the floor, saying committee members had created a partisan gerrymander. Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, expressed concerns about the district, as well, saying she would have supported the map as a whole if the General Assembly adopted the amendment.
Other members disagreed. Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, who worked closely with Democrats, staff, and other Republicans in drafting the district, said resolving the issue was ultimately a problem of math, not partisanship.
“For people to say we did a partisan gerrymander, that greatly offends me because I know nothing of the politics of those two districts,” she said.
Near the end of the floor discussion, Rep. Carla Cunningham, D-Mecklenburg, reprimanded her fellow members for allowing a single county grouping to upend the whole process.
“Out of 14 clusters, we have one outlier, just one outlier, that’s about to break it all down,” she insisted repeatedly. “Do we want to do that? Or do we need to consider our thoughts on that one outlier?”
Earlier in the day, the court dropped an unanticipated announcement. First, it gave the General Assembly until Thursday, Sept. 19 — a day longer than expected — to submit its maps. Then it announced Stanford law professor Nathaniel Persily, selected as the special master to oversee the Covington v. N.C. redistricting lawsuit, would make sure the General Assembly’s maps comply with the court’s order. Among other things, he’ll examine whether the districts are compact; the maps needlessly split counties, cities, or voting districts; or members considered partisan data when setting district lines. The court could consider any of these a violation of its order.
The Senate’s map hasn’t reached the floor. The map passed the redistricting committee Friday morning in a near-unanimous vote, and Senate discussions overall have been less testy than those in the House.
Committee leaders in both chambers said they want to allow more time for public comment on their work. At noon Monday, the House and Senate committees will hold a public hearing in Room 643 of the Legislative Office Building. Amendments may be added to the House and Senate maps during that meeting.
In the meantime, the public can view House and Senate maps by visiting the redistricting committees’ pages and selecting “Documents.” The pages include links to several versions of the maps, as well as a comment boxes for people to make suggestions to the committees.