The changes to a proposed Senate legislative map Thursday night were minimal, despite efforts from Democratic lawmakers to correct unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.
The Senate redistricting committee met for about three hours to go over the proposed remedial map that was released over the weekend. Despite hours Tuesday of listening to North Carolina voters express dissatisfaction with the maps, nothing had changed when Thursday’s meeting began.
In the last two hours of the meeting, two of the five amendments that Democrats offered up passed the committee — one that moves Sen. Ben Clark’s (D-Cumberland, Hoke) home into the right district lines and another that redefines the district lines in Wake County, as drawn by Democratic Leader Sen. Dan Blue.
There were two amendments that failed along party lines that would have redefined district lines in Mecklenburg and Guilford counties. Blue also submitted the remedial Senate map proposed by the plaintiffs in North Carolina v. Covington (the case dictating the redraw) as the last amendment — it also failed along party lines.
“I think the ridiculous nature of this map probably speaks for itself,” said Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), who chairs the Senate redistricting committee.
He pointed out that there were a number of double-bunkings in the Covington map for no good reason and indicated that it would prevent Republicans from being elected in the future.
The Covington map would have undone the amendments that both Clark and Blue successfully passed in the committee — they both indicated that they wouldn’t care. Clark said that if the Covington map meant that he had to be put out of office, he would still gladly accept its passage.
He added that the people of North Carolina deserved a fair map and that the Covington map was the furthest away from gerrymandering that it could be.
Similarly, Blue said he supported the map because it was fair. He gave a shoutout to Common Cause NC and said he has seen the fight for independent redistricting grow over the years.
Blue said he didn’t realize there were as many double-buntings in the Covington map as there were, but said the folks who drew it were “not as politically sensitive as those who serve.”
“It makes all of us gravitate toward the middle a whole lot more,” he said.
Hise twice asked the committee to reject the map, telling members that it considered race and its motive is to lessen GOP representation in the Senate.
The map failed along party lines with a 9-4 vote.
The overall proposed Senate map advanced along a 9-4 party line vote.
Democrats grilled Hise at the beginning of the meeting about his interpretation of the court’s order and whether or not he believed the court dictated that the committee not use race. They also asked about political considerations that were made during the mapmaking process and discussed the large efficiency gap in the proposed map that gives Republicans a large edge.
Sen Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe) also asked whether any consideration was made to the public’s call to take politics out of the redistricting process. Hise responded that he didn’t believe in unicorns, fairies or the “mythical nonpartisan redistricting committee.”
Hise also blamed the court for dictating a “compressed timeline” to redraw the maps, which resulted in changes to the way public comment was used.
“We are under the gun,” he said.
The Senate as a whole is expected to vote on the map tomorrow. The House redistricting committee is set to meet about its map at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building.