North Carolina Begins Process of Redrawing District Maps
North Carolina lawmakers convened Tuesday afternoon to take the first procedural steps to draw new congressional maps in time for use in the 2020 elections.
In all, 18 Republicans and Democrats turned out for a committee meeting at the General Assembly building in Raleigh, N.C., a week ahead of the next meeting of the state legislature.
In early September, a three-judge panel of state judges ruled districts used to elect members of the General Assembly were unconstitutional, having been drawn by Republican lawmakers specifically to disadvantage Democrats.
The Republicans responded by redrawing state House and Senate Districts.
Encouraged by these developments, Democrats turned to the courts again, challenging the district map used to elect the state’s 13 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
That led, in late October, to the same three-judge panel alerting Republican lawmakers that they would likely lose again. The judges encouraged the lawmakers to just get on with redrawing the maps and avoid needless litigation.
The legislators agreed, setting the stage for Tuesday’s meeting with Democrats.
No timeline has been established for completing the new congressional district map, but it is believed lawmakers want to have the map finished by the end of the month.
The period for candidates to file to run in the 2020 elections starts Dec. 2 and ends Dec. 20.
If the new maps aren’t done by then, or if the judges reject them, the planned March 3 primaries for the U.S. House could be postponed until later in the year.
While many saw Tuesday’s meeting as a positive step, not everyone was happy.
“[On Monday] evening, the North Carolina Senate President and House Speaker appointed an interim redistricting committee to start work on new Congressional maps and announced that its first public meeting would be held less than 24 hours later,” said Lekha Shupeck, state director of All On The Line, a grassroots redistricting organization.
“This is unacceptable — less than a single day’s notice is not enough time for citizens to make arrangements to attend,” Shupeck said.
“The last court ordered map redrawing process was a disappointment right from the start with regard to transparency and citizen participation, and this latest remedial process is not off to a good start either,” she said. “North Carolina legislators must drastically improve the accessibility of the process this time around. Before the maps are drawn, the interim committee needs to release a public hearing schedule with locations across the state and at least four days notice before the hearings occur.
“This criteria is the bare minimum that legislators need to meet in order to show adequate respect for the North Carolinians who will be directly impacted by the committee’s decisions,” Shupeck added.