Raleigh, N.C. — Republican lawmakers on Wednesday rolled out a proposed reconfiguration of North Carolina's 13 U.S. House districts after federal judges ruled two of the current districts were unconstitutionally drawn based on voters' race.
The General Assembly is under a Friday deadline to reconfigure the maps after a three-judge panel on Feb. 5 invalidated the 1st Congressional District and the 12th Congressional District.
Although GOP leaders hold out hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will stay the judges' order and allow the March 15 primary to proceed under the map that has been in place for five years, Gov. Pat McCrory called a special legislative session for Thursday morning to approve the new map.
More than 19,000 voters statewide have already been sent mail-in absentee ballots for the primary, and almost 1,800 had been returned, as of Wednesday morning, according to the State Board of Elections.
The proposed map completely disregards the race of voters and is based primarily on the voting results of recent elections to guarantee Republicans maintain their 10-3 advantage in North Carolina's delegation to the U.S. House. Other factors used to draw the map include making districts roughly equal in population and contiguous in area, splitting as few counties and precincts as possible and not pitting incumbent members of Congress against one another.
Under the proposal, the 12th District would cover most of Mecklenburg County instead of snaking along Interstate 85 from Charlotte to Greensboro. The 1st District would continue to sprawl across the northeast part of the state, stretching west into Durham but not as far south and east as previously.
The 13th Congressional District, which now covers parts of the Triangle and spreads east down to Wayne County, would shift about 100 miles to the west, covering Greensboro west to Iredell County.
That move would shift Republican 13th District Congressman George Holding into the 4th Congressional District, where he would be pitted against longtime Democratic Congressman David Price. The 4th District would include all of Orange County and parts of Wake and Durham counties under the proposed reconfiguration.
"The new districts are no more legitimate than the old," Price said in a statement. "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."
Democratic Congresswoman Alma Adams, who represents the 12th District, would be in the 13th District under the new map. No incumbent Congress member lives in the proposed 12th District. Adams said she is reviewing the new map and remains committed to serving 12th District voters.
Cumberland County voters also would see major changes under the GOP map. The county is now represented by the 2nd, 4th and 7th districts, but the northern half would be moved to the 8th Congressional District and the southern half to the 9th Congressional District.
Twelve other counties would be split between congressional districts, including Wake, Durham, Johnston and Wilson. The current map divides about three times as many counties.
Democratic lawmakers have complained bitterly about omitting voters' race from the calculus of drawing district boundaries, saying it would dilute minority voting power and violate the federal Voting Rights Act. They plan on drawing up their own map to present to the judges after the Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting voted along party lines to approve the GOP plan.
Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, said the GOP plan still tries to "stuff about half the black population of the state" in the 1st, 4th and 12th districts and "basically prop(s) up the rest of the state" for Republicans.
"You can name it anything you want to name it, it is what it is," Blue told fellow members of the committee. "You can't use partisanship as proxy of race, and that's what you've done here.
"You're assaulting democracy, even though you're doing it in the name of partisanship," he continued. "If you think people of this state are mad because of the way you redistricted last time, they're going to be furious with this."