Aug 11, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

This week in North Carolina politics, the House and Senate redistricting committees jointly met to approve the criteria that will be used in order to create the new maps, as ordered by the court.

Redistricting Criteria Adopted

Yesterday the House and Senate redistricting committees met jointly to adopt the criteria that would be used to draw the new maps. Democrats on the committee pushed back on several of the proposed criteria, but ultimately all nine of the criteria proposed by the House and Senate redistricting chairs passed.

Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) stated that they hope to have the maps drawn and released to the public by August 23, with floor votes on August 24. Last Monday’s court ruling requires for the new maps to be in place by September 1.

Equal Population: Requires the use of the 2010 census data for drawing districts that are within five percent of the ideal district population. For the House, that is almost 80,000 citizens, for the Senate, it is approximately 190,000 citizens.

Contiguity : Districts must be contiguous, and that contiguity by water is sufficient. Sen. Ben Clark (D-Hoke) proposed an amendment that would require the contiguity of the district to be easily accessible for commerce throughout the district, without requiring a legislator to drive through an adjacent district to access another part of their district. The amendment failed.

County Groupings & Traversals: Requires that legislative districts must be established within specific county groupings. The House and Senate groupings were approved by the committees last week.

Compactness: Reasonable efforts must be made to improve the compactness of the current districts.

Fewer Split Precincts: Reasonable efforts must be made to split fewer precincts than in the current districts. Democrats proposed amendments to this criteria, attempting to add a sentence that would only allow for precincts to be split in order to achieve balance in district populations, not for partisan advantage.

Municipal Boundaries: Allows for municipal boundaries to be considered. Democrats on the committee contended that “communities of interest” should be added to this criteria. Rep. Lewis stated that the term is too vague, and that there is no one definition of the term.

Incumbency Protection: Allows for reasonable efforts and political considerations to be used in order to avoid pairing an incumbent member with another incumbent member. Several Democrats opposed this criteria, stating that there should not be a protection for incumbents.

Election Data: Maintains that political considerations and election results from previous elections may be used. Several Democrats pushed back against the criteria, stating that map drawing should be nonpartisan, in order to prevent districts being drawn to produce a partisan political advantage. The Supreme Court has ruled that political gerrymandering is constitutional.

No Consideration of Racial Data: Directs that data identifying the race of individuals or voters to not be used. Rep. Lewis stated that race would not be a factor in these maps since the courts ruled the 28 districts in the current maps to be unconstitutional, believing that race was the predominant factor in drawing those maps. Several Democrats on the committee questioned how the maps would satisfy the Voting Rights Act, which is intended to ensure that minority voters are able to elect the candidate of their choice, without considering race when drawing the new maps.