Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina House on Saturday released its proposed redistricting plan, scheduled to be up for its first floor vote next Friday.
Mapmakers were allowed to use election data to achieve political goals but were forbidden from considering voters’ race under criteria approved last week by the House and Senate Redistricting committees overseeing the process.
In their criteria for the new maps, lawmakers stated that mapmakers could make reasonable efforts to keep incumbents from being drawn into a district with another incumbent, commonly known as double-bunking. Mapmakers appeared to stick to that criteria with the following exceptions:
- Republican Reps. John Faircloth and Jon Hardister will now both be running in House 61 in Greensboro, while a vacant seat will open up in the adjacent House 59.
- Republican Reps. Carl Ford and Larry Pittman are double-bunked in House 83 in Cabarrus and Rowan counties.
- Republican Rep. Susan Martin is double-bunked with Democratic Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield in House 24 in Wilson County, while the adjacent House 8 district in Pitt County has no incumbent.
- Republican Rep. John Sauls is double-bunked with Democratic Rep. Robert Reives in Lee County. Adjacent House 54, which is Chatham County, has no incumbent.
A new district, House 79, that covers Beaufort and northern Craven counties has no incumbent.
"These maps are not final. We will conduct public hearings next week and continue working until the process is complete," Hardister said. "The focus now is to produce legal maps that are in compliance with court orders. I will evaluate my political options at the appropriate time."
The double-bunkings themselves don't represent a significant change in the balance of power in the House. Either party could pick up one or two seats by holding two inter-party doubles and gaining some of the four new ones. But since some of the new districts are likely drawn to lean Republican, it's possible but unlikely that the GOP, currently holding 74 of 120 seats, will lose its veto-proof majority of 72.
More changes, however, could be in store if some of the redrawn districts are more politically competitive. While all other House members remained in their districts, some of those districts look very different than they do under the current map. Data that will indicate each district's political lean will be released Monday.
"On first glance, it appears that protecting incumbents was a really important criteria and that they were very successful in looking out for incumbents," said House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, adding that further comment would have to wait until Monday's release of additional data.
The map released Saturday is only a first draft. A public hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday in Raleigh and at seven satellite sites around the state. Changes to the proposed map could come after the public hearing or in committee on Thursday.
The three-judge panel that found racial gerrymanders in 19 House and nine Senate districts will have to sign off on new maps before they take effect. The panel gave lawmakers a deadline of Sept. 1 to pass new maps. Legislative leaders say they plan to finish work by Aug. 31.
"Republican leaders continue to show they are more concerned with maintaining their super-majority than fairly representing North Carolina," North Carolina Democratic Party Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said in a statement. "We’ll wait to see more details before examining individual districts, but we continue to be concerned by Republicans' insistence on using the same dark arts gerrymandering expert who drew the previous unconstitutional maps and their refusal to conduct this process in a transparent and bipartisan fashion."