Members of the North Carolina public were finally able to weigh in Monday on proposed remedial legislative maps that would be used in the 2020 elections.
The House and Senate Redistricting committees held a joint hearing this afternoon to allow for public comment before the final maps are enacted and sent to the court that ordered them. A three-judge panel ruled lawmakers redraw districts after they used unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering to redistrict maps in 2017.
The new maps are due to be submitted to the court by 5 p.m. Friday. The House took a floor vote on its proposed maps Friday, but they still could be amended. The Senate plans to hold a floor vote on its remedial maps this evening.
Public comments were mostly split — numerous people commended the legislature for finally using a transparent process to shed some light on the redistricting process, but several more people scolded them for continuing to prioritize incumbency protection and not implementing transparency to the highest degree.
“I am here to mourn the passing of public trust in this legislature,” said Jennifer Rudoph, of Wake County. “It’s dead. It died years ago. … Now the only way to revitalize our trust is for you to step aside and let the courts draw fair maps.”
She was not alone in calling for the courts to step in. The Rev. Dr. Earl Johnson, clergy and pastor of Greater Grace Christian Church, a predominately African-American church in Youngsville, and Bishop Todd Fulton, of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, both spoke about the need for districts that don’t target or split their votes.
“This process divides the African-American community,” said Fulton. “On the final analysis, we will not allow our taxpayer dollars to be used for partisan gerrymandering.”
Johnson said he sees no distinction between partisan and racial gerrymandering and that the process of gerrymandering hasn’t changed over the past week.
“Already I’m a little frustrated that you’ve declined to draw districts from scratch,” he said. “It is totally illegitimate. The people of North Carolina deserve clean and fair elections. This is not a fair process.”
A number of people spoke about their disappointment with specific county clusters and districts, including in Alamance, Mecklenburg, Davie and Cabarrus counties.
On the other hand though, there were several speakers who approved of the process and said they liked the proposed maps. They also criticized calls for a nonpartisan redistricting commission.
“I’m sorry, I don’t believe in unicorns, I don’t believe in Easter bunnies, and I don’t believe in nonpartisan commissions,” said Jay DeLancy, founder of the conservative Voter Integrity Project.
Veronica Martish, of Willow Spring, told the committees the “judicial gerryrigging” has got to stop.
“I urge you to resist those calls because elections have consequences,” she said. “Don’t betray your party voters by surrendering your cause for a redistricting commission.”
Renee Miller, of Cary, said she finds herself at a loss — the Republicans were elected in 2010 on Democrat-drawn maps and the rules have been the same for all of them.
“Why are we having to go through this?” she asked.
She added that the time and resources spent on this remedial redistricting process were a waste.
The court has appointed Stanford Law Professor Nathaniel Persily to help review the remedial map the legislature enacts. He could be ordered to draw new maps if the court does not approve.