North Carolina’s GOP-controlled state legislature on Thursday approved the state’s new congressional maps, which have boundaries likely to give Republicans an advantage there for the next decade.
The state gained a 14th congressional seat after the 2020 census. Ten of the 14 seats will lean Republican, according to the non-partisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project. Republicans currently hold eight of 13 seats.
In North Carolina, the legislature is responsible for redistricting, and it doesn’t need approval from the governor for the maps to become law. That means Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is unable to veto the maps.
State House Rep. Destin Hall, one of the top Republicans involved in the redistricting process, said the legislature chose not to use partisan election data in drawing maps, calling the process “the most transparent process in state history.”
“For the first time ever, the legislature voluntarily decided not to use election data in crafting the maps. We focused only on traditional criteria like keeping counties and cities whole. North Carolinians can be proud of what has been the most transparent redistricting process in state history,” Hall said in a news release.
But the maps were immediately met with backlash from voting rights advocates, who claimed they were gerrymandered and a partisan power grab.
“North Carolinians made it clear at the start of the redistricting process that they wanted to end partisan gerrymandering. Instead of listening to the people, Republican legislators did the opposite today by passing maps that are heavily manipulated in favor of their party and that will deny real political power to the most populous and diverse areas of the state,” said former US attorney general Eric Holder, who is now the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.
Other critics said the new maps are harmful to Black voters in the state.
“We are troubled that these districts would especially hurt Black voters, harmfully split communities and undermine the freedom of North Carolinians to have a voice in choosing their representatives,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina.
State Senate Democrats had offered alternatives to the final maps, proposals that would have created six congressional districts each for Republicans and Democrats, and two competitive districts, but the proposals were shot down.
“I fully expect we will see lawsuits filed against the Republican General Assembly on the claims that they have engaged in both racial gerrymandering and partisan gerrymandering,” state Sen. Jay Chaudhuri told CNN on Thursday.
The legislature is already facing one lawsuit filed last week by a group of civil rights groups including the NAACP, over their redistricting process for drawing North Carolina’s state House and Senate districts. The suit claims the process failed to to consider race during the initial stages of the map-making process in ways that could have devastating impacts on the representation of Black individuals in North Carolinia in violation of state and federal law.
The Tar Heel State has a history of being sued over its congressional map. In 2017, and the US Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional district map for racial gerrymandering, forcing the legislature to redraw the map.
North Carolina is the tenth state to complete the redistricting process. Thirty-four states have yet to approve congressional maps and six states have only one district.
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