As NC Democrats denounce new GOP-drawn election districts, one congresswoman called them “explicit political pornography”

By: - October 26, 2023 1:30 pm
NC congressional districts 2023

The new NC congressional map creates 10 strong Republican districts out of 14. (Source: NC Legislature)

Democrats are considering a lawsuit against GOP redistricting plans that U.S. Rep. Alma Adams called “explicit political pornography.”

North Carolina’s Democratic members of Congress and legislative leaders said the GOP-drawn plans for new election districts go to extremes to stack election odds in Republicans’ favor. They denounced new election maps in a video news conference Thursday as racial gerrymanders. 

“We are exploring racial gerrymandering claims right now,” said U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross of Raleigh. “We are lawyering up.”

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice has put Republican legislators on notice about a potential lawsuit over the treatment of Black voters. 

A court-ordered congressional district map good for use only in 2022 elected seven Democrats and seven Republicans last year. Republican legislators replace that map with one that has 10 solid Republican districts, three strong Democratic districts, and one swing district that is trending Republican. 

The new districts mean that many state residents would once again see changes in their legislative and congressional representatives forced by redrawn election boundaries.

Adams, a Charlotte Democrat in her fifth term, said the shape of her district has changed five times since she was elected to Congress. Adams used to live in Greensboro but moved to Charlotte in 2016 after congressional district boundaries changed. 

“These maps are egregious and they don’t protect the rights of North Carolina voters,” she said.

Rep. Alma Adams
Rep. Alma Adams – Photo:

The newly drawn state House and Senate maps would allow Republicans to preserve their majorities, even in good election years for Democrats. 

Republicans said they used information on how people vote to create the plans, as the courts have allowed. State Rep. Destin Hall said a consultant who helped draw the state House plan was told to create Republican-leaning districts where possible. 

But all Republican redistricting leaders said their plans are legal. 

In response to questions Wednesday, Sen. Paul Newton, a Senate redistricting chairman, said the plans are “fair and legal and comply with the law.”

At the press conference, Senate Democratic leader Dan Blue said Republican mapmakers created politically lopsided districts by packing Black voters into some of them, making surrounding districts whiter as a result.

In New Hanover, Republicans carved out six majority-Black precincts and put them into a Republican district that includes all of Brunswick and Columbus counties. 

“Race had to be a factor to take those Black folks out,” Blue said. 

Earlier in the legislative session, Republicans passed laws over Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes that will make it harder to vote and will change the composition of the state Board of Elections so that Republican and Democratic legislators make all the appointments. The new voting law faces three federal lawsuits, with claims that it discriminates against young voters. 

Democratic U.S. Rep. Wiley Nickel won his first term last year from District 13, which was drawn to be competitive. The replacement District 13 is solidly Republican and has a completely different shape with new counties. Gerrymandered districts stifle competition and are bad for North Carolina, he said. 

“These Republican maps totally screw the North Carolina voters,” Nickel said. “They’re bad for competition of best ideas, and they lead to extreme partisanship.”

Nickel said on social media Wednesday that he would make a decision about running “once the courts have spoken.”

US Rep. Wiley Nickel
US Rep. Wiley Nickel

States are required to draw new districts every ten years, but North Carolina does it more often because courts often strike down plans legislators create.

After legislators drew maps for the 2022 elections, the Democratic majority in the state Supreme Court said they were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders and threw them out.  Congressional candidates ran in court-drawn districts last year. Legislative districts were redrawn and approved by the trial court. 

Republicans won a majority on the state Supreme Court last year and quickly reversed the decision on partisan gerrymandering. The new Republican majority said partisan gerrymandering is not a matter for courts.

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Lynn Bonner
Lynn Bonner

Investigative Reporter Lynn Bonner covers the state legislature and politics, as well as elections, the state budget, public and mental health, safety net programs and issues of racial equality.