Republicans adopt more secretive approach to redrawing maps

While Democrats have shared where they will meet to redraw legislative and congressional maps the state Supreme Court struck down, House Republican lawmakers went in and out of a room covered by drapes.

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Bryan Anderson, WRAL statehouse reporter,
Keenan Willard, WRAL eastern North Carolina reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — When North Carolina Republicans drew legislative and congressional lines last year, top GOP leaders heralded the transparent way they handled the decennial redistricting effort, touting efforts that enabled the public to watch lawmakers draw boundaries in real time.
But as Republicans gear up to redraw lines following a 4-3 state Supreme Court decision last week striking down the maps, the party has kept quiet on where they are meeting and who is allowed in the room as the districts are crafted.

On Thursday, a handful of House Republican lawmakers and staff members meandered through the second floor of the Capitol building, filing in and out of one conference area where windows were blocked by drapes between rooms 2225 and 2226.

"I think the curtains stay closed," House Speaker Tim Moore said in an interview with WRAL News. "I don't even think you can open them in that room. I know there's a computer there. There may be another computer terminal somewhere else. The Democrats are meeting in a room that's over in the Legislative Office Building that doesn't have windows or anything. But you wouldn't see anything interesting. It's just folks sitting in front of a computer and moving a mouse around and looking at the districts."

Sen. Dan Blue, a Wake County Democrat and minority leader for Senate Democrats, said the public deserves more transparency from House Republicans about how maps are being redrawn. “There’s no reason anybody ought to hide what they’re looking at as they draw new districts for court review.”

Walking through the hallways of the General Assembly, State Rep. Destin Hall, a GOP redistricting leader, declined to say whether map-drawing had begun and where he was coming from.

Last year, Hall had called the GOP's map-drawing “the most transparent process in the history of this state.”

On Thursday, when WRAL sought to ask him questions, Hall said he had to hop on a call and deferred any questions to Moore’s office. Demi Dowdy, a spokeswoman for Moore, declined to provide any details on how far along House Republicans were in the redraw.

State Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincoln County Republican who entered and exited the room on multiple occasions, called himself “an observer” to the process and said Republicans were loading data onto terminals to be used to draw legislative lines in the coming days.

Dowdy wouldn’t say why the curtains were closed. Gaps in the drapes revealed multiple people sitting around a conference room table.

Moore's team later confirmed the draped conference room is the one where House Republicans are redrawing.

Communications officials from Senate leader Phil Berger’s office declined to say where state senators were meeting and whether any map-drawing had begun. Unlike the House, where Republicans are secluding themselves to their own space, state senators of both parties were expected to be in a shared space, Blue said.

Blue said in a phone interview that he has spoken with Berger and expects Democrats and Republicans to have access to a shared room for a redraw. He noted Senate Democrats have not started drawing lines.

House Democrats, meanwhile, will work across the street in Room 512 of the Legislative Office Building, according to the office of House Democratic Leader Robert Reives. During the afternoon, the room was locked. Party leaders said the doors were closed because no lawmakers were in the room drawing but that the doors will remain unlocked if any House Democrats go inside the room.

The Republican-controlled legislature has until Feb. 18 to submit revised congressional and legislative maps to a trial court. The three-judge panel can choose to go with the revised maps from the legislature, ones from an independent expert known as a special master or proposals from a voting rights group that successfully sued to strike down the maps the GOP passed last fall.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, Berger and Blue said they expect the redraw process to continue into late next week.

“Over the next few days, Republican and Democratic legislators will work together in hopes of reaching a negotiated end product,” they wrote. “Legislators will share that end product with the public and the court as early as practicable. Given the workload and complexity of the mathematical analyses required by the court, this work will likely continue into late next week.”


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