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North Carolina lawmakers gear up for latest round of redistricting

2023-09-28
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- It is officially back to the drawing board as the focus of state lawmakers turns to redistricting. New lines for U.S. Congress and the NC General Assembly for 2024 could have an effect, not just for the state, but in the battle for control of the U.S. House. While North Carolina has been notorious for gerrymandering going back many years, including by Democrats decades ago, it's now the Republican supermajority with the power to redraw the lines. As it stands now, the court-drawn maps used in 2022, which produced a 50-50 split delegation of seven Democrats and seven Republicans will not be used again in 2024. After the then-Democratic-controlled North Carolina Supreme Court invalidated the GOP-drawn lines as partisan gerrymandering, that decision was reversed when the GOP took control of the State Supreme Court. Now, the question is how far will GOP lawmakers push to expand the number of seats they have in Congress? At public hearings across the state, including in Raleigh, people weighed in. "You should exercise the authority with the same vigor as your predecessors in the 90s and early 2000s," said Jim Womack, a former Lee County commissioner. But most speakers were concerned about the effects of gerrymandering -- specifically keeping geographic communities and counties intact, and making sure voters who are ethnic minorities get a fair chance of equal representation under the Voting Rights Act. "What I have seen repeatedly is the lack of empathy for the African American community on the legislative level especially when it pertains to fair mapping," said Wayne Bostick with the A. Philip Randolph Foundation. What the final maps end up looking like is up in the air, but the original GOP proposal from 2021 might provide some clues. To maximize Republican seats, many Democratic-leaning voters were packed into blue districts in the Triangle and Charlotte, leaving surrounding areas more GOP-friendly. In the course of doing that, Wake County would have been split into three different districts. In one area of Apex, the dividing lines would have split sub-divisions in half. Voters who live there say they hope the lines end up being cleaner to create less confusion and more fairness. "It feels like instead of dividing in a way that makes sense with physical boundaries it feels very much like cherry-picking," said Brittany O'Brien from Cary. Votes in the legislature on the newest map proposals could happen as soon as the week of Oct. 9.

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