(The Center Square) – The North Carolina General Assembly on Wednesday voted into law new congressional and state legislative district maps that are expected to face legal challenges.
Senators voted 27-17 along party lines to approve House Bill 898 to redraw the state’s 120 House districts, and 28-17 on Senate Bill 758 for the state’s 50 Senate districts Wednesday morning, finalizing the former and sending the latter to the House.
The lower chamber held two committee meetings on SB758 and Senate Bill 757, which redraws the state’s 14 congressional districts. Both SB758 and SB757 ultimately cleared the lower chamber on party line votes of 63-40 and 64-40, respectively.
All three bills become law without Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s consideration. Legal challenges are expected, and the week has included multiple protestations.
The filing period begins in December.
“It’s not clear to me that we’ve complied with federal law,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford.
Harrison and several other Democrats in both chambers say the maps violate the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by disenfranchising Black voters. Republicans who crafted the maps stressed they did not use racial data, though political contest information was considered.
Multiple amendments from Democrats were adopted and incorporated into the bills.
SB757 is expected to shift the state’s congressional delegation from a 7-7 split to a majority of at least 10 Republicans, with one district in the eastern part of the state a toss-up. Democrats in both chambers were unsuccessful in proposing amendments to keep the congressional map used in 2022.
The redistricting action in North Carolina is drawing national attention for its potential impact on Congress. Republicans hold a slim 221-212 majority in the U.S. House, with vacancies in Rhode Island and Utah.
Prior to the 2022 midterms, the split was 9-4 GOP in 2013-15 and 10-3 in 2015-17, 2017-19 and 2019-21. The state’s voter rolls, as of this past Saturday, are nearly even thirds for the more than 7.3 million registered – 36.4% unaffiliated, 32.8% Democrats and 30.1% Republicans.
Rep. Destin Hall, R-Watauga, noted that while “there’s no doubt” the maps were “drawn to create Republican leaning districts, … generally right now the Democratic party doesn’t compete in nearly three-quarters of counties in our state.”
U.S. Rep. Wiley Nickel and others are calling for litigation.
“The maps are an extreme partisan gerrymander by Republican legislators that totally screw North Carolina voters,” Nickel said in a prepared statement. “It’s time to sue the bastards.”
With SB758, Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, said only seven of 50 state Senate districts “have changed from the map used in 2022 with some political impact.” It double-bunks Senate Democrats in two districts, one in Wake County and another in Mecklenburg County.
The state House districts in HB898 does not double bunk any incumbent members who are seeking reelection, Hall said.
The House and Senate adjourned for the month following Wednesday’s votes, with both set to return on Nov. 29.