The House redistricting plan passed its second and third reading this afternoon and is headed to the Senate for its third and final reading next.
During this afternoon’s debate, Republican and Democratic lawmakers clashed over the decision by the Republican-led redistricting committee to exclude racial data from the criteria used to draw the new maps.
“How do you correct a racially gerrymandered district without including race?” Representative Mickey Michaux, a Democrat from Durham, asked Representative David Lewis, chairman of the House Committee on Redistricting.
Democrats also chafed at the House’s proposed new maps, which they said were gerrymandered along racial and partisan lines. During a ten-minute speech on the House floor, Democratic minority leader Representative Darren Jackson called the new plan a racial gerrymander that is “every bit as constitutionally flawed” as the maps from 2011.
“Today is the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and we have in fact come a long way,” Jackson said. “But i do not believe we are at a point in this country, in the South, or even this state, where you can no longer consider race in these type of decisions. … You’re pretending like the Voting Rights Act no longer exists.”
Democrats also took issue with Tom Hofeller, the GOP mapmaker hired for $50,000 to help Republicans redraw the maps. Hofeller helped draw the 2011 maps that were determined to be racially gerrymandered.
When asked by Democratic Representative Robert Reives why Hofeller was chosen to help draw the maps, Lewis replied: “I feel and continue to feel that Dr. Hofeller was the best person to help us quickly comply with the order of the court. [He was] the best to hire. He’s able to help legislators translate their desires to the maptitude program.”
Lawmakers were ordered to redraw the districts after the Supreme Court in June sided with a lower court ruling that 28 of the state’s 170 legislative districts were illegally racially gerrymandered. The court gave the legislature until September 1 to draw new legislative districts that pass constitutional muster.
Republicans hold supermajorities in both the House and the Senate, which allow them to override Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s vetoes. Democrats need to win three seats in the House or six in the Senate to break the supermajority and hand Cooper enough power to sustain his vetoes.
Although the new districts have the potential to sway the balance of power in Raleigh, experts say the proposed maps are unlikely do so. Under the new maps, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, Republicans need to secure just 46 percent of the vote to hold onto their majority in the House, while Democrats need to win 55 percent of the vote.
The plan is headed to the Senate for its third reading next and the Senate Redistricting Committee will discuss the maps at 10 am tomorrow.