Legislators met a Friday deadline to complete a court-ordered rewrite of North Carolina’s illegally gerrymandered congressional voting map, all the while looking ahead to further legal challenges. One legal decision quickly went against the Republican lawmakers, who still defend the previous boundaries as fair and legal. The U.S. Supreme Court late Friday refused the state’s request to keep using district lines from the 2012 and 2014 elections while the lower-court order is appealed. The denial means the state is on track to hold congressional primaries June 7 under the new map. Had the Supreme Court sided with the state, the congressional primary would have remained March 15 as previously scheduled. The state House gave final approval to the new map dividing the state’s 13 U.S. House seats after federal judges earlier this month declared the old map was illegally gerrymandered by race. Challengers had complained that legislative Republicans drew the previous congressional lines to pack black voters in two districts, leaving the rest more white and more favorable to the GOP.
The rewrite did not consider the race of voters; instead, it focused on keeping the Republicans’ 10-3 advantage in U.S. House seats, protecting congressional incumbents, keeping districts compact and keeping counties within those districts as whole as possible, said Rep. David Lewis, the chief redistricting leader in the state House.
“Race was not among the criteria we considered when we drew these maps,” said Lewis, R-Harnett.
The new map replaces the snakelike contours of the 12th District criticized for two decades for connecting pockets of Democrats in Charlotte with others in Greensboro and Winston-Salem via Interstate 85. The simplified district now includes most of Mecklenburg County, excluding the Greensboro home of first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Alma Adams.