State lawmakers will be back in Raleigh Tuesday to continue work on redrawing North Carolina's 13 congressional district boundaries. A joint house-senate redistricting committee is acting on a state court's urging that lawmakers fix what the judges indicated was a map gerrymandered with excessive partisan bias.
The current boundaries lock in a 10-3 Republican majority. Asheville gets split from the rest of Buncombe County, creating a safe GOP seat in what is now the 11th District, for example. And a notch carved out of Wake County helps preserve what is now the reliably Republican 2nd District.
In at least a couple of the proposed replacement maps, Asheville would be rejoined with the rest of Buncombe County. But a chunk of Charlotte would still be grafted onto a more rural, conservative district. Federal law requires congressional districts have virtually equal populations.
The committee adopted six criteria for redrawing the congressional map, most notably prohibiting the use of partisan data or past election results.
Any kind of reasonable drawing of a congressional map in North Carolina--satisfying the Voting Rights Act, one person one vote, keeping districts compact, and keeping counties intact--should result in a much closer split, say seven Republicans and six Democrats, according to Theodore Arrington, professor emeritus of political science at UNC Charlotte, who taught courses on voting and elections.
"It might, if they're really crafty and hide what they're doing, it might be 8-5," he said.
Legislators are in a bit of a race against time. According to state elections officials, a new map must be in place by December 15th to avoid pushing back the March primaries.
After the committee recommends a replacement, the full legislature must vote and then the new map would have to pass muster with the court.