North Carolina’s legislative leaders adopted rules Thursday that they will use when drawing new election district lines, after 28 districts were ruled unconstitutional last year. The current lines were drawn in a way to unfairly disenfranchise black voters, federal courts found. While racial gerrymandering is illegal, the U.S. Supreme Court has so far allowed political gerrymandering, and one of the new rules is that legislators may consider past election results when drawing the new lines. Rep. David Lewis told a joint meeting of the House and Senate redistricting committees that the process “will be an inherently political thing.” Democrats opposed that rule, along with another one that says the new maps can be drawn in such a way to protect incumbents. “It just seems ridiculous to me that you get to say, ‘We will protect the incumbents elected using unconstitutional maps,’ ” House Minority Leader Rep. Darren Jackson, a Wake County Democrat, said.
While the new rules allow map makers to consider past political results and the addresses of incumbents, one thing legislators prohibited themselves from considering was race.
Lewis, a Harnett County Republican and a House leader on redistricting, said he thought that decision was in keeping with the recent court ruling that found the current lines unconstitutional. Democrats, however, objected. They said that by not considering race, it will be hard to see if the new map also discriminates against racial minorities like the old one did.
“We live in the South,” said Sen. Paul Lowe, a Democrat from Winston-Salem. “When, in the South, has race not been a factor?”