Proposed NC congressional district maps widely panned

Posted October 25, 2021 6:29 p.m. EDT
Updated October 25, 2021 6:48 p.m. EDT

— Politically, North Carolina is a swing state, with neither major party having a large advantage.

But new congressional district maps proposed by Republican lawmakers would give the GOP an 11-3 advantage in U.S. House seats by splitting Democratic counties into different districts to reduce their political power.

"To come out with a map that has an overwhelming number of districts that are going to be Republican, regardless of how the others play out, is inherently, patently unfair," Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue said Monday.

Dozens of voters agreed, sharply criticizing the lawmakers who drew various congressional maps during a Monday afternoon public hearing.

"District maps should not give partisan advantage," said Kathy Wheeler, who was among several people who complained that Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point wouldn't be part of a single congressional district under most GOP-drawn maps.

Some of the maps "take off into parts unknown somewhere out into the rural areas of the state," Guilford County resident Linda Archer agreed. "We are called the Piedmont Triad for a reason and should be treated as such."

Others complained that Wake County and Mecklenburg County were likewise split up so Democratic voters in those areas would have less influence.

Blue, D-Wake, predicted that lawmakers will be sued over the maps, as happened several times with the maps drawn a decade ago. Districts should be drawn to allow either party to win, he said.

"It’s one’s sense of fairness, I think, that is on trial here," he said. "If you want to be fair, you know what a fair map would look like, and you know what the fair numbers would indicate in a state that’s 50-50."

But Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer said statewide averages don’t tell the whole story. Seven of every 10 voting precincts in North Carolina lean strongly toward one party or the other, he said.

"Trying to draw these maps that are in some words fair, that might be competitive, is really a difficult task when so many North Carolina voters have pretty much sorted themselves into like-minded communities," Bitzer said.

He agreed the maps will probably face a court challenge for political gerrymandering, but he said Republicans have a motive to push their advantage as far as they can.

"We know that Republicans are very focused on redistricting efforts because they only need a handful of U.S. House seats to take the majority," he said. "One of those seats could come out of, and is likely to come out of, North Carolina."

Other speakers during the public hearing complained about the process itself, noting GOP lawmakers set one hearing Monday for congressional maps and another Tuesday for legislative maps – but the proposed maps were unveiled publicly only a few days ago,

"It was not easy to get here – it was only announced a few days ago [and] it is inaccessible – and that is your choice. You're doing that on purpose," Durham resident Caitlin Metzger said.

"The fact that you're making a mockery of people is so embarrassing," Fayetteville resident Kathy Griggs said. “This is straight-up BS. ... I say we vote all of y'all out, and you go home."

Legislative leaders said they expect to approve the maps by the end of the week.

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