This story originally published online at NC Policy Watch.
The legislature approved a new plan for U.S. House districts largely along party lines Thursday, with Democrats saying the Republican plan is flawed.
Two House Republicans from Cumberland County, Reps. John Szoka and Diane Wheatley, joined Democrats in opposing the new congressional map. Szoka said the districts in the Sandhills region don’t make sense because they separate Fort Bragg and surroundings communities of interest. He blamed the Supreme Court for forcing legislators to draw maps by formula.
Democrats have been promoting an alternative plan they say would keep the Sandhills counties, including Fort Bragg and the communities surrounding, it together in one district. Rep. Zack Hawkins, a Durham Democrat, offered that plan up again Thursday and had it shot down on a 51-68 party-line vote.
Sen. Warren Daniel, a Republican redistricting leader, told his colleagues that the congressional plan has six districts that will elect a Republican, four that will elect a Democrat, and four that are competitive.
Daniel referenced Dave Wasserman, a redistricting expert with the Cook Political Report, who has counted 19 U.S. House districts around the country that are going to be competitive. North Carolina will add four more to that slim number, Daniel said.
Wasserman tweeted Thursday about North Carolina’s new congressional plan, calling it “still quite a gerrymander.”
“Have a hard time believing the NC Supreme Court would accept this,” Wasserman wrote on Twitter.
The state Supreme Court struck down Republican-drawn U.S. House and legislative maps as unconstitutional pro-Republican partisan gerrymanders that devalued Democratic votes. The court ordered new plans and set a deadline of Friday for delivering them to the three-judge panel.
With its votes Thursday, legislators finished this second phase of redistricting, shipping all three plans to the Superior Court judges for review.
Republican senators throughout said they created competitive districts as the state Supreme Court ordered, while Democrats argued that Republicans used mathematical formulas as a cover for plans full of gerrymandered districts.
Democratic senators argued vigorously Thursday for changes to the GOP’s new Senate district plan, saying Republicans did not address districts the courts identified as problematic.
“The remedial maps before us remain gerrymandered,” said Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Wake County Democrat.
Democrats proposed nine amendments to the Senate plan that Republicans systematically discarded with a parliamentary procedure that prevents votes.
Sen. Dan Blue, the chamber’s Democratic leader, said Republicans were thumbing their nose at the court, while Sen. Paul Newton, a Republican and one of the chamber’s redistricting committee chairmen, said Republicans addressed every district the courts identified.
One House Republican, Rep. Larry Yarborough of Roxboro, voted against the state Senate plan.
The three Superior Court judges have until February 23 to approve new maps. The primary is set for May 17.
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