North Carolina Republicans have begun to release details of their schedule for drawing new boundaries to correct legislative districts found unconstitutional by the federal courts. But they have not presented any maps to the public yet. The General Assembly, which met for what was expected to be a one-day legislative session on Thursday, is tentatively set to vote on new maps on Aug. 24 or 25, according to Rep. David Lewis, the state House member shepherding the redistricting process. Lewis, a Republican from Harnett County, and Sen. Ralph Hise, a Republican from Mitchell County who leads the Senate redistricting committee, announced this week that they are seeking public comments Friday at a 10:30 a.m. hearing on the criteria the committee should use to draw new maps.
The meeting comes four days after a panel of three federal judges issued an order calling for new maps by Sept. 1. The judges – Catherine Eagles, a Barack Obama appointee to the U.S. Middle District of North Carolina; Thomas Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee to the same district; and James Wynn, a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge appointed by President Obama – ruled out the possibility of special elections this year.
But the judges let lawmakers know that they wanted maps “enacted as quickly as possible to protect the rights of North Carolina citizens and to minimize any chilling effect on political participation attributable to the continued absence of a districting plan in the face of a finding of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.” They set a deadline of Sept. 1.
In August 2016, the federal judges ruled that 28 of North Carolina’s 170 legislative districts were drawn to pack black voters into the unconstitutional districts, weakening their overall influence in elections.