North Carolina's new state legislative district lines are on pace to be finished by Wednesday's court-imposed deadline after versions of the maps passed both chambers of the General Assembly.
The Senate's bipartisan, 38-9 vote happened Monday night. The House and Senate are now reviewing each other's maps, potentially making additional tweaks to some boundaries before they are forwarded for final approval to the three state judges in Raleigh who ordered the redistricting this month.
The redrawing of North Carolina's state legislative map has started, as legislators look to meet the Sept. 18 deadline imposed by the three-judge panel that ruled the old map unconstitutional.
Republican lawmakers on the House and Senate redistricting committees proposed using districts that were generated as part of models by University of Michigan redistricting expert Jowei Chen, who testified for plaintiffs during the trial, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. Most Democratic lawmakers are on board with use of the maps, given the time constraints.
The final maps will have to be approved by both General Assembly chambers.
Last week, North Carolina's state legislative map was struck down by a three-judge panel that said it violated the state's constitution. And while anti-gerrymandering activists are pledging to follow the North Carolina model as they expand efforts to other states, a fascinating story has emerged about the the machinations that led to the current maps.
The Tar Heel State map was a part of a larger group masterminded by Republican operative Thomas Hofeller, who died last year. And not only did Hofeller create partisan gerrymandered maps, The New Yorker reports, those districts were drawn using racial demographic data — which is constitutionally suspect. This allowed Republicans to win congressional seats in areas that otherwise would have been majority-minority seats.
Exultant crusaders against partisan gerrymandering are vowing to hold North Carolina politicians' feet to the fire until the state's legislative maps are drawn more fairly — while also looking beyond the borders. They are hailing a state court's redistricting decision as a landmark ruling with the potential to benefit their cause across the country.
Just 10 weeks ago, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution provides no opening for challenges in the federal courts to even the most brazenly partisan mapmaking. But in a dramatic reversal of fortune for political cartographers — and not just in North Carolina — a bipartisan panel of three judges in Raleigh ruled unanimously Tuesday that the state House and state Senate lines are so contorted to favor Republicans that they violate a broad array of Democratic voters' rights under the state's constitution.
The GOP leaders in the state capital, who have been contesting almost a dozen different anti-gerrymandering lawsuits (some successfully alleging racial motivation) while hoping to keep their district lines intact, announced they were at last conceding defeat. Rather than appeal to the state's top court — a long-shot prospect given its lopsided Democratic majority — they said they would get to work on new maps right away.
"Nearly a decade of relentless litigation has strained the legitimacy of this state's institutions, and the relationship between its leaders, to the breaking point," said Phil Berger, the Republican majority leader of the state Senate. "It's time to move on."