North Carolina Republican legislative leaders will hire the same mapmaker largely responsible for the racially gerrymandered maps that are court-ordered to be redrawn.
Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) broke the news that Tom Hofeller would be consulting for the GOP at the first joint legislative committee meeting Wednesday. Democrats, he added, will not have access to his work or services as the maps are created.
“He’s certainly the guy that I have the most confidence in,” he added.
Hofeller is a nationally-known Redistricting Consultant for the Republican National Committee. The Atlantic described him as the person most to blame for the nation’s divisive politics.
“Despite a unanimous Supreme Court decision reprimanding them for their undemocratic maps, Republicans have learned nothing,” said NC Democratic Party Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds on a statement after the meeting. “Tom Hofeller has undermined every election he touches, and Republicans’ admission that taxpayer money will yet again be spent to rig the system shows that the only thing driving them is how they can hold a grip on power.”
The meeting Wednesday was organizational — Republican lawmakers refuse to draw any maps without direction from the court that will oversee the process. The court hearing is tomorrow in Greensboro, but Lewis said he thought Wednesday’s meeting was important to discuss ideas and goals.
At the meeting, Lewis said if the court agrees to their timeline, the maps would be drawn, hopefully, by mid-November. There are tentative plans to hold three public hearings and he announced two email addresses and a website where residents can offer criteria suggestions for the process and feedback once maps are released.
There were also documents passed out to lawmakers, including Census information and maps recently published by Common Cause NC — which was a surprise to the organization.
When asked by colleagues if partisan advantage would be considered in the process, Lewis said he didn’t know.
Lewis, who is subpoenaed to appear at tomorrow’s court hearing, said he plans to testify. Everything discussed at the meeting Wednesday is contingent on the court’s ruling in the case — a three-judge panel will decide the criteria and timeline for which the maps are to be redrawn.
“We legitimately don’t know what the court is going to come back with,” Lewis said.
He added later, “We will comply with whatever order the court gives us.”
Common Cause Executive Director Bob Phillips said after the meeting that there is fear the process will not be as transparent as it needs to be.
“The big thing is to take the politics out of the process,” he said. “Politics are everything — that’s how they rig the map.”