Republican legislative leaders proposed a new outline for North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts on Wednesday, moving two incumbents out of districts they represent and likely pushing the primary elections for congress past the scheduled March 15 date.
Lawmakers, responding to a federal court ruling that said they had racially gerrymandered some congressional districts in 2011 and ordering them to draw new ones, presented maps that would rearrange almost all of the state’s voting lines. The proposal would keep the delegation’s 10-3 Republican majority.
Most dramatically, the map would move the 12th District, which currently covers parts of Greensboro and Charlotte and the Interstate 85 corridor in between, to cover only Mecklenburg County. And it would collapse the 4th District, which currently covers seven counties in the central part of the state, to cover only Durham, Orange and Wake counties.
Rep. David Lewis, a Republican from Harnett County and one of the chief map designers, told a special redistricting committee the maps followed criteria that he said would comply with the federal court order, eliminating voters’ race as a factor and instead relying on voting patterns for political parties. Map makers maintain that previously drawn maps are unconstitutional, and have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay.
Democrats criticized the maps, saying that not throwing out voters' race as a factor would still result in the disenfranchisement of minority voters and would violate the Voting Rights Act. Some Democratic leaders had considered drafting their own last-minute version of maps but did not produce any on Wednesday.
Under the court order, state lawmakers have until Friday to issue new maps. Gov. Pat McCrory called the General Assembly to meet for a special session Thursday.
This tweet compares the currently used districts, drawn in 2011, and the proposal:
— Laura F. Puryear (@LauraFPuryear) febrero 17, 2016
Here are some of the biggest changes:
1st District, Held By Democrats
The 1st District, held by Democrat G.K. Butterfield since 2004, was one of two the federal three-judge panel struck down as unconstitutional in a Feb. 5 ruling, saying lawmakers had unlawfully packed black voters into the district. The proposal would compact the district in the mostly rural Northeastern part of the state from a sprawl of 24 counties to 12. The District would continue to heavily lean Democratic: Map makers used elections records that showed 65 percent of voters chose the Democratic candidate for governor in 2012.
12th District, Held By Democrats
The 12th District, held by Democrat Alma Adams since 2014, was the other district the federal court struck down as racially gerrymandered. And it would no longer have an incumbent because it would no longer cover any of Greensboro, which is where Adams lives. (She would face an uphill challenge in keeping the seat; even though congressional candidates are not required to live in the county they represent, voters are more likely to choose a resident.)
The three-judge panel directed lawmakers to make the district less “serpentine,” so they re-drew the district to center on Mecklenburg County. It would continue to heavily lean Democratic: 2012 elections records show 56 percent of voter chose the Democratic candidate for governor in 2012.
Adams’ campaign didn’t answer questions about her possibly being drawn out of her district. In a statement, she said she would await the court's determination of the constitutionality of the maps.
“I'm confident that voters will remember my more than 30 years of dedicated public service when the time comes to cast their ballots,” Adams said.
4th District, Held by Democrats and
13th District, Held by Republicans
Republican George Holding's residence would be taken out of the 13th District, which he has represented since 2013, and he would live in the 4th District, which Democrat David Price has represented since 1997. Holding could run for the 13th, given that candidates are not required to live in their district, but if he ran against Price, he would likely lose because the 4th heavily leans Democratic.
The 13th District, which covers parts of seven counties near Wake and Edgecombe, would be moved to the western part of the state. And the 4th District, would be collapsed from seven counties to cover all of Orange, part of Durham and much of Wake County, where Holding lives.
The 4th District would lean Democratic: 58 percent of voters in 2012 chose the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. The 13th District would lean Republican: 58 percent of voters in 2012 chose the Republican candidate.
In a statement, Price questioned the legitimacy of the proposed maps and those previously drawn. He pointed out that in 2014, more than half of overall votes for congress in the state went to Democratic candidates.
"The fact that Republicans decided to maintain the current partisan split of seats before they began drawing these new maps demonstrates that they did not set out to ensure fair representation," he said.
Holding's office could not be reached for comment by Wednesday night.