The NC Senate redistricting committee approved new boundary lines for North Carolina congressional districts on Monday that would give Republican candidates clear advantages in 10 of 14.
An analysis by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the plan at “F” grade for partisan fairness, determining it would likely elect 10 Republicans and four Democrats, and determined the plan has a 21.4% Republican bias.
The website Fivethirtyeight said the plan would produce 10 Republican, three Democratic, and one highly competitive district. U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat and one of two Black House members from North Carolina, lives in the highly competitive district.
Sen. Ralph Hise, one of the Senate committee chairmen, said the plan would likely go to a vote of the full Senate on Tuesday. It must also clear the House. Gov. Roy Cooper does not have the power to veto redistricting plans.
Redistricting is required after each Census to account for population growth and shifts. The state’s population grew enough in the last decade to give it an additional congressional district. Districts must be drawn so that the populations are equal, or nearly equal.
Many speakers in public hearings last week called for the plan to reflect the state’s election performance, where voters split about evenly between Democratic and Republican candidates.
Democrats on the Senate committee criticized the GOP plan for unnecessarily dividing the state’s largest counties, Mecklenburg, Wake, and Guilford. Mecklenburg. Wake and Mecklenburg have too many people for single districts, so they must be divided among at least two districts.
The GOP map divides each of the state’s biggest counties into three parts.
“Splitting these three counties three times is unnecessary and a clear indication to give one party a partisan advantage,” said Sen. Natasha Marcus, a Mecklenburg Democrat. A southeastern sliver of Mecklenburg would be part of a district stretching east to Hoke, Scotland, and Moore.
No one at the public hearings recommended a district that includes southern Mecklenburg extend that far east, Marcus said.
As Democrats criticized county and regional divisions, Sen. Warren Daniel, a Morganton Republican and one of the committee cochairmen, said sometimes too much is made of “communities of interest,” or keeping together areas that share geography or major employers.
“Sometimes we split hairs over communities of interest,” he said. “We’re all Americans. We’re all North Carolinians. We travel and shop in the same places as our next-door neighbor counties.”
Republicans said they did not consider data on partisanship or race in drawing the plan.
However, voters in urban mostly-Democratic counties are parceled out so they would be overwhelmed by counties with Republican majorities.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in Guilford County by about 160,000 to 90,000, according to state Board of Elections data. Yet Guilford’s population would be divided among three strong Republican districts. None of those districts include neighboring Forsyth County, home to other cities, that along with Greensboro in Guilford, are part of the Piedmont Triad.
“To split us up like this, I can’t make sense of it,” said Sen. Paul Lowe, a Forsyth County Democrat.
The proposed district would include Forsyth, Yadkin County to the west, then swings south to Lincoln County.
“When I see Forsyth County swinging around – What do we have to do with Lincoln?” Lowe asked. “I don’t get it. I want to get it.”
Registered Democrats in Forsyth outnumber registered Republicans 103,000 to 73,000. Forsyth would be in a Republican congressional district.
While Democrats criticized the Republican plan for splitting major counties, Republicans said plans presented by Democratic Sens. Ben Clark of Hoke County and Jay Chaudhuri of Wake County split too many municipalities – far more than the Republican plan the committee adopted on a voice vote.
Sen. Paul Newton, a Cabarrus County Republican, read off more than a dozen municipalities that would be split under Clark’s plan, including Cary, Chapel Hill, Fuquay-Varina, Raleigh, Greenville, and Winston-Salem.
Clark defended his map, saying created a Sandhills district that recognized the military bases and veterans living near them as a community of interest.
“They’re tired of being sliced, diced and split up,” Clark said. “They believe they deserve the same as every other major geo-cultural region in the state.”
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