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State Lawmakers Revamp NC’s Congressional Districts, Postpone Primaries

Photo: Proposed legislative maps of 2016
North Carolina General Assembly

February 19 update:  Lawmakers gave final approval to the new maps on Friday.

North Carolina lawmakers are just steps away from rearranging the state’s congressional districts and eliminating runoff elections. The actions are at the behest of a federal court’s finding of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering in two of the state's congressional districts.

On Thursday afternoon, the Senate’s Republican majority approved a newly drawn map that would likely keep Republicans in the majority in 10 of the state's 13 congressional districts. The House of Representatives approved postponing the primary for those races by three months to June 7 and nixing all runoff elections this year.

Each piece of legislation is likely to be approved by the other chamber and become law on Friday.

However, uncertainty remains, as the U.S. Supreme Court could still halt the General Assembly’s work by allowing current maps to be used in the March 15 elections. Republican leaders maintain the constitutionality of maps they drew in 2011. But the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that the maps  relied primarily on race in two of the state’s primarily Democratic districts. The court ordered the maps be redrawn by Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger called the newly drawn maps fair, legal and compact, and said he expects they will satisfy the appellate court. Democratic Minority Leader Dan Blue sharply criticized the maps, saying they still resulted in an illegal disenfranchisement of black voters.

Here are some highlights of how the congressional maps would change.

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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