Republican legislators’ proposed changes to the state’s congressional boundaries make dramatic changes to two districts a panel of federal judges found unconstitutional – and major alterations to others, as well.
The map changes each of the 13 congressional districts, with some of subjected to major realignment.
Two legislators would no longer live in the districts they represent. Congressional candidates don’t have to live in districts they run it, but it can be challenging when they don’t. The 13th District, now anchored in the Triangle, moves across the state. The 12th District, now the most serpentine district, would be the most compact.
According to voting statistics released for the proposed districts, three of them would strongly favor a Democrat, while the other 10 lean Republican. GOP lawmakers say they want to keep the existing 10-3 partisan split.
The legislative committee charged with drawing new maps voted 24-11 along party lines Wednesday afternoon in favor of the proposal. Democrats were opposed but did not submit an alternative map, saying they had wanted to see the Republicans’ version first.
The proposal will go before the full House and Senate Thursday morning in a rare special session called Wednesday by Gov. Pat McCrory. The legislature also will review a bill that would delay the date of the congressional primary, said House Rules Chairman David Lewis.
A three-judge federal panel had ruled Feb. 5 that the 1st and 12th districts were racial gerrymanders. Redistricting leaders said the new map was redrawn without consideration to race.
Though the judges’ ruling was about only two districts, the new map has the potential to shake up the U.S. House primaries and the state’s congressional delegation.
The 12th Congressional District would be entirely within Mecklenburg County, and no longer curls from Charlotte, up Interstate 85, to Greensboro. It’s represented by Rep. Alma Adams of Greensboro; no current members of Congress live in the proposed new 12th.
The 1st Congressional District no longer takes in all or part of 24 counties. It would be more compact and include most of Durham County.
The 13th District, which is represented by Republican U.S. Rep. George Holding of Raleigh, would shift across the state from its Triangle base and cover an area from Greensboro to Statesville.
Areas in the current 13th District would be split among the 2nd District (represented by Rep. Renee Ellmers), the 1st District (Rep. G.K. Butterfield) and the 3rd District (Rep. Walter Jones).
The 4th District, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. David Price, would become more compact, consisting of Orange County, southern Durham County and a chunk of Wake County centered on Raleigh. The current district stretches from Alamance County to Raleigh and Fayetteville.
Another major shift would affect the 9th District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger. His district is currently a narrow strip from Union County through Charlotte north to Iredell County. Under the proposal, the district would move east and stretch from Fayetteville to Charlotte along the South Carolina border.
Many of the counties now represented by Pittenger would move to the 8th District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson.
Incumbents could still seek re-election in the new districts because members of Congress are only required to live in North Carolina – not necessarily within the districts they serve.
Price and Holding would live in the same district under the proposed map.
New district boundaries could create new problems for some candidates and new possibilities for people who want to go to Congress.
Former state Sen. Malcolm Graham of Charlotte exchanged text messages with Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham during the redistricting committee meeting, with McKissick telling Graham he now had a district to run in. Graham lost a primary to Adams, a former state House member, in 2014.
During the meeting, Graham tweeted: “Will new 12th mean new opportunities.”
State Rep. Rodney Moore, a Charlotte Democrat, said he may be interested in running in the 12th District, but would wait to see whether the districts are adopted by the legislature and approved by the three-judge panel.
The N.C. Republican Party issued a statement saying the plan would make some GOP-leaning districts more competitive.
“Notably the new maps only split 13 counties and 13 precincts, and the reduction of split counties by two-thirds is particularly praiseworthy,” NCGOP chairman Hasan Harnett said. “These maps reduce the amount of Republican voters in several key Congressional districts, but we will fight and retain these seats.”
In past years, a fat stack of statistics on the proposed districts, including the race and party registration of voters, were distributed along with the maps. This time, only the total population, and who voters in the district favored in statewide races from 2008-2014, were included.
McKissick asked for information on party registration and the racial composition of the districts.
“It all give me concern — receiving it all so quickly, trying to digest it all so quickly, almost with the speed of light,” he said.
Democrats were not thrilled with the plan, and Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue of Raleigh said the continued gerrymandering represents a “direct assault on democracy.”
Blue said it was obvious that the map concentrates African-Americans into the 1st, 4th and 12th districts.
“You again managed to stuff about half the black population in the state” into three districts, he said.
“You can’t use partisanship as a proxy for race, and that’s exactly what you’ve done here,” Blue said. The courts have said partisan gerrymandering is acceptable, but Blue predicted that these proposed districts would tempt them to reconsider.
The three-judge panel had ordered the state to redraw the 1st and 12th districts by Friday. Republican legislators still are hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court will stay the order, saying new districts so close to the March 15 primary will disrupt elections.
If the legislature votes to approve the map this week – and a special House and Senate session is set to start Thursday – the federal court would still have to sign off on the proposal. McCrory formally called Wednesday for the special session to start at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The legislature Thursday also will consider a bill setting a new filing period and date for the congressional primaries. All other primaries would go on as scheduled on March 15, Lewis said.