The Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly approved new legislative and congressional district maps on Thursday amid Democrats alleging the maps are gerrymandered.
After the 2020 U.S. Census, North Carolina gained a 14th congressional district in the western part of the state.
Unlike some other states, the maps don’t require Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature, nor can he veto them.
According to initial data from the census, over the last decade, North Carolina’s population grew 9.5 percent, which brought the U.S. House delegation up from 13 to 14 representatives.
After that data was released, redrawing began for the 14 congressional districts, 50 state Senate districts, and 120 House districts.
District lines are redrawn every 10 years following the census, and the federal government stipulates that each district must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate based on race or ethnicity.
According to Dr. Andy Jackson with the John Locke Foundation—an independent research institute in North Carolina that examines issues around freedom, personal responsibility, and limited constitutional government—the maps must be passed like other legislation in both chambers, with each chamber drawing its own map.
“This year, the committee chairs agreed that the Senate would write the first version of our congressional districts, and so the House passed what originally started in the Senate,” Jackson told The Epoch Times. “All three have been passed in the same form by both chambers, so they are law now. These are going to be the districts we have for the 2022 midterm election unless they are overturned in a lawsuit.”
Voting along party lines without Democrat approval, the Senate voted 25-21 for the House map, while the House voted 65-49 for the Senate and congressional map.
The redistricting work is performed by a nonpartisan legislature staff using a mathematical formula.
A spokesperson for the North Carolina Senate Republicans told The Epoch Times that the method by which redistricting is done is called county grouping, or county clustering, which itself is an anti-gerrymandering provision established by a 2003 North Carolina Supreme Court decision to institute “clusters,” which are a group of counties that, based on population, can comprise legislative districts.
“At the end of the day, it’s the legislature that decides where the lines go within certain confines, and those confines are set in part by North Carolina Supreme Court precedent,” said the spokesperson.
County clustering is calculated using a mathematical formula that determines county groupings, or groups of counties that comprise whole districts.
The nonpartisan legislative staff calculates the math, then the report goes to a redistricting committee, with the subset of North Carolina counties providing the framework.
When redistricting is done to benefit either Democrats or Republicans, it’s called gerrymandering.
Democrats have alleged that the maps passed in the Republican-led assembly are a product of gerrymandering.
Sen. Natasha Marcus said in a statement that the maps “are bad on so many levels.”
“They will give Republicans an unearned partisan advantage in the U.S. Congress, the State House, and the State Senate,” she said.
They split what she said were the most populated and Democratic counties: Mecklenburg, Wake, and Guilford.
“This dilutes the power of the Democratic votes in those counties and divides communities of interest, putting metropolitan areas into districts that are largely rural and far away,” she said.
She said Democrats had offered two alternative maps given a grade of A by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project (PGP), a group that says it performs “nonpartisan analysis” to “eliminate partisan gerrymandering,” but the Republicans rejected the maps for their own, which she said the PGP gave a grade of an F for “giving a significant partisan advantage to Republicans.”
House Speaker Tim Moore said he’s confident that the maps are constitutional “in every respect.”
“The redistricting process has provided the public with an unprecedented view into the process,” Moore said. “In fact, not only did we hold hearings for public comments before and after the maps had been drawn, but every single map was drawn in public view.”
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a civil rights group, filed a lawsuit challenging the legislature’s process for drawing the maps, alleging they failed “to consider race.”