A Redistricting committee meeting this morning got testy as Senate Republicans pushed Democrats to offer an alternative plan for new congressional districts.
Under the Republican plan, most districts have more registered Democrats than Republicans. But McCain would have won the presidential election in 10 out of 13 of them.
Democrats say that’s an overreach that isn’t true to the state’s closely-divided political landscape. They’ve also accused Republicans of trying to pack as many African-American voters as possible into three districts to dilute their influence in other areas.
Republicans deny that. And they say Democrats have not only failed to back up their accusations with evidence, they’ve failed to produce an alternative map.
Senate Redistricting chair Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, says the state allotted $64,000 for the Legislative Black Caucus to draft a map of its own. He says the half the money has been spent, but so far, the Caucus has yet to unveil a map.
This morning, Rucho pressed Caucus chairman Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, to show what’s been done with the money.
“When might we be able to view your maps on the congressional plan?” Rucho said. “Will we see it soon?”
McKissick said Democrats and black lawmakers were waiting to see the final Republican map before offering an alternative plan. The latest GOP map was released two days ago.
McKissick said he expects to offer an alternate map during floor debate next week. “But I’m not going to sit here and give you a time frame per se when it’ll be introduced,” he told Rucho. “This morning is an opportunity for discussion of this particular plan that’s before us.”
Rucho, clearly frustrated, pushed back. “We’ve gotten not one bit of information, not one question answered, no input except for criticism,” he said. “There’s been criticism only, based on no law.”
“We’re waiting for you very anxiously, as are the people of North Carolina, to see your proposal. And we’ve been waiting, we’ve asked many times. We’ve got nothing. We’ve got nothing from yourself,” Rucho told McKissick.
That’s when Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt stepped in to the debate. “We’ve been waiting for you to produce a map,” he said to Rucho. “We hold all these public hearings and we expect you to respond to them, and you don’t.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Nesbitt added. “You’re gonna get our opinion.”
Senate Democrats offered only one amendment to the congressional plan in committee – a Nesbitt remapping that would have put Asheville back into the 11th district, along with Polk and part of Rutherford. Caldwell and Burke counties would be swapped back into the 10th.
Nesbitt said scores of angry voters in Asheville have asked the committee to put the city back into the 11th, where it’s historically always been. Asheville’s removal from the 11th district, currently served by Democrat Heath Shuler, would make the district friendlier to a Republican candidate.
“I can’t remember anybody that was for it,” Nesbitt said. “The people of the west don’t like this.”
Republicans countered that at least a couple of speakers had spoken in favor of the change. And Rucho added that all the state’s cities had been divided up into multiple districts to increase their representation in Congress.
“We treated Asheville like we did every other urban center,” Rucho told Nesbitt. “We’ve tried to treat everyone fairly and equally.”
“When you treat everybody equally bad, it’s not necessarily a good thing,” Nesbitt shot back.
Nesbitt’s amendment was defeated, with what appeared to be all Democrats voting for it and all Republicans voting against.
Shortly after, the map itself was approved by the committee on a similar vote. It’s expected to be debated on the floor Monday.