Republican lawmakers could have redrawn North Carolina’s legislative and congressional districts to be “much more advantageous” to GOP candidates if they’d relied on partisan data, House Speaker Tim Moore said Wednesday.
The comments came after a three-judge panel upheld the state House, state Senate and U.S. House maps in challenges alleging they were unconstitutional extreme partisan gerrymanders. The North Carolina Supreme Court will hear an appeal.
The judges, two Republicans and one Democrat, were critical, at times, in their lengthy order and found many of the districts were the “product of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting.” The maps were passed on party-line votes with Republican majorities in the General Assembly and could not be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
“Despite our disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our State to ridicule, this Court must remind itself that these maps are the result of a democratic process.” the judges wrote.
The maps are expected to produce a 10-4 or 11-3 Republican-led majority among the U.S. House delegation and strong Republican majorities in both legislative chambers, experts testified during the trial. North Carolina is considered a swing state in presidential elections. Donald Trump twice carried the state in presidential elections with less than 50% of the vote.
“At the end of the day, take a look at the map. If you wanted to take political data into account, if it had been taken into account, the maps could have been drawn in such a way that they would be much more advantageous for Republicans,” Moore told reporters.
As part of its rules for map-drawing, the majorities banned the use of political or racial data. During the trial, Rep. Destin Hall, R-Caldwell, admitted to looking at “concept maps” provided by an aide — and now destroyed — before drawing the state House districts.
Democrats argued that the revelation proved Republicans were not truthful about how the maps were created, considering Hall denied that he relied on any outside material during debate over the maps. Moore said the use of the maps, which he and Hall have said did not contain political data, does not undercut Republicans’ claims about the transparency of the redistricting process, a key talking point throughout the map-drawing process.
Hall said during the trial he looked at the maps briefly and they provided a “heads up about where cities and towns and population centers were.”
“I think that’s a red herring that some folks out there on the other side are chasing,” said Moore, a Cleveland County Republican.
Moore said he was not aware of the use of “concept maps.”
“I heard about it during the trial,” he said.
During the trial, Hall pointed to two GOP-leaning districts in Mecklenburg County as a spot where Republicans, if they’d been looking at political data, could have made the seats safer for their candidates. Moore did not point to specific districts or areas of the map that Republicans would have changed, but said there were areas on all three maps that could have been altered.
“Inherently, redistricting is a political question and any time courts wade into issues like this that are political questions, political doctrine, it really does a disservice to the court,” Moore said. “... The Constitution of this state is very clear, it is the responsibility, it is the duty of the North Carolina General Assembly to redraw the districts in this state — not the court, not the governor, not anybody else.”
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