After nearly party-line votes, Republicans in the General Assembly completed their first redistricting process in over 100 years. Since North Carolina comes under the purview of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the Congressional, state House, and state Senate maps must now obtain “pre-clearance” from either the Obama Justice Department or a three judge panel from the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
In addition to preclearance, the maps are certain to provoke lawsuits from Democrats and outside groups, who claim the maps uneccessarily create African-American majority districts. According to these critics, this constitutes “packing” of African-Americans, although there is not a clear legal foundation for their definition of the term.
If withstanding pre-clearance and legal challenges, the maps mark a turning point in North Carolina politics. For decades, Democrat-drawn maps have been used to prevent Republicans from winning additional Congressional seats or gaining control of the legislature, despite regional trends that have benefitted Republicans elsewhere in the Southeast.
In 2010, the Democrat-drawn map produced the only Southeastern Congressional delegation with a Democratic majority (7-6), with only veteran Democrat Bob Etheridge falling (to Republican Renee Ellmers) despite a more than 200,000 vote margin for Republicans across the state. The 2000 legislative maps had similarly held off Republican advances, despite several lawsuits that forced redrawing of the maps in 2002, 2003 and 2009. Republicans took control of both state houses after the 2010 elections.
In floor debate, Senate Redistricing chairman Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) said the maps produced “fair, legal and competitive districts that will allow any candidate to run in these districts with the opportunity to win.”