The Senate’s redistricting bill cleared its third and final reading Monday evening after the House’s redistricting plan moved forward that afternoon.
Following more than an hour of debate and a long speech on the Senate floor by Republican Senate leader Phil Berger, the chamber voted 31–15 to advance the new map they were ordered to redraw after courts found that 28 of the state’s 170 legislative districts were illegally racially gerrymandered. The court gave the legislature until September 1 to redraw the gerrymandered districts, and the map must be approved before that deadline.
Democrats have been railing against the maps since they were made public last week, saying they are still gerrymandered along racial and partisan lines. During the House debate, 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 and said the state’s current map is “one of the most gerrymandered in the history of America.”
In response, Republicans said Democrats had a long history of gerrymandering when they were in the majority and argued that they’re just making excuses for their own political shortcomings.
During Monday’s Senate debate, the tenor of the conversation was no different. Berger accused Democrats and “liberals in the media and academia” of seizing on the gerrymandering “theme and running with it,” before launching into a twenty-plus-minute speech that rehashed Democratic gerrymandering in the state and the party’s recent historic losses.
“Democrats are only competing in twenty to thirty counties in North Carolina,” Berger said. “That might be a viable strategy for squeaking out a close win in the occasional statewide race, but you cannot build a legislative majority in a state with one hundred
when you only compete in one-fourth of them. Do we really think all of these county shifts are the result of gerrymandering? Of course not. Gerrymandering didn’t do that. Democrats did. That’s why Republicans were able to take the majority in the state Senate in 2010 with a map drawn by the Democrats.”
Berger, incidentally, supported an independent redistricting bill as a member of the minority in the General Assembly in 2001.
The Senate voted to advance the maps, just as the House did earlier that day.
The Senate Redistricting and House Committees will meet tomorrow to review each chamber’s respective maps before they both move forward for a final vote.