North Carolina Republican legislators said on Tuesday that they want to keep racial considerations out of consideration when drawing new congressional district lines for the state, even as they hope the U.S. Supreme Court will issue an order telling them they can continue using current voting maps.
A Republican-led special redistricting committee voted to draw maps using political party information from elections since 2008 -- but not voters’ race. They will use the criteria to ensure Republicans keep their 10 to 3 majority in the state’s congressional delegation.
The state’s two chief voting map makers, Republicans Sen. Bob Rucho and Rep. David Lewis, are responding to a Feb. 5 federal appellate court ruling that found they had illegally packed black voters into two districts and ordering them to draw new ones by Feb. 19. Lawmakers have asked the Supreme Court to issue a stay.
“I’m making clear that our intent is to use the political data we have to our partisan advantage,” Lewis told the committee.
Using the seven criteria points lawmakers laid out is contingent on the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to block a lower-court decision that struck down two majority-black districts as illegal racial gerrymandering: the 1st district, which covers all or parts of 24 counties in the central and northeastern parts of the state, and the 12th, which snakes along Interstate 85 from Greensboro to Charlotte.
Lewis told the committee that the three-judge panel from the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond had been unclear about how voters’ race could be considered when drawing maps. He said it would be preferable to do away with race, and that it would be lawful to use political data as the main criteria.
Sen. Dan Blue of Wake County and other Democratic committee members disagreed with Lewis’ arguments and said Republicans were insulting the judges, who could draw the map themselves.
“I don’t think it’s wise to spit in the eyes of three judges who control the fate of where we’re going to go with redistricting,” Blue said.