North Carolina lawmakers will soon vote on how exactly to draw the state’s political maps for the next decade.
It’s a big deal. The maps could go a long way toward determining the political makeup of the state legislature until 2032, as well as the partisan balance of North Carolina’s 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
It’s the reason both Democrats and Republicans spent millions of dollars on state legislative races in 2020, trying to make sure they were the ones in charge of this process. Republicans kept their majority in that election and are fully in charge of how the maps look, since — unlike most other issues at the legislature — Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is banned from vetoing any redistricting.
As of Friday, lawmakers were nearly done drawing their proposed maps. The redistricting committees will likely vote on what they prefer next week, with full approval expected by late October or early November. So for any members of the public who wish to comment on the maps, it’s now or never.
The legislature recently announced public hearings on both Monday and Tuesday for people to weigh in. There will be two different times each day, and opportunities for both in-person and remote comments by video.
Here’s what you need to know.
What do the maps look like?
Not every map lawmakers drew in the last few weeks has been posted online for the public to analyze yet, but a few have. So far, every Republican-drawn map draft that’s posted publicly would be expected to lead to 10-4 or 11-3 splits in favor of Republicans in the congressional delegation, if people continue to vote as they did in in the 2020 presidential election, when Republican Donald Trump won North Carolina with 49.9% of the vote.
Anyone who wants to study the maps in detail can find them on the N.C. Senate’s redistricting committee page under documents.
Democrats have pointed to the disproportionate partisan advantage being proposed as evidence of GOP gerrymandering. Republican leaders have so far declined to comment publicly on the maps, but in the past have defended such lopsided splits as being the result of what they call their geographic advantage.
Even though statewide races here are highly competitive, they say that since Democrats tend to cluster in cities it creates an advantage for Republicans in elections that are not statewide but rather regional, like for congress or the N.C. General Assembly.
However, it’s not impossible to create a map that reflects the state’s purple nature. Democratic Sen. Ben Clark of Raeford drew two congressional maps, mostly but not completely identical, that would each be expected to create an even 7-7 partisan split.
One of the main differences was that his maps mostly kept the state’s main metro areas whole, while the GOP-drawn maps tend to split up the large and medium cities into multiple districts.
Later on, the legislature uploaded a third 7-7 map for public view. It’s unclear who drew that one since, like with the others, the map’s author isn’t publicly identified.
How can I comment?
The public hearings Monday and Tuesday will have three options: In person and remote hearings at 3 p.m. both days, and an online-only hearing at 5:30 p.m. both days.
Anyone can walk into the legislature to give a short comment in person at 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. People who are free then but can’t make it to downtown Raleigh can consider going to one of the remote sites that lawmakers are setting up in eastern and western North Carolina, to call in to the hearing. Those will be in Charlotte, Greenville, Wilmington and Lenoir, depending on the day.
Make sure to sign up online first. Lawmakers are limiting the number of people they will allow to speak. Only 25 speakers at each of the three locations each day will be allowed, and each will get two minutes. The sign-up can be found at www.ncleg.gov/requesttospeak/60.
Finally, people who have to work during the day but want to be heard — or who are too late in trying to sign up for the in-person comments — can still weigh in, at the 5:30 session each day which will be held on WebEx. People who want to sign up for that need to go to www.ncleg.gov/requesttospeak/62 and enter their email address, to get a link to the WebEx hearing and further instructions. That hearing will be limited to the first 30 people to sign up for each day.
Details on remote sites
For the in-person hearings at 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, people can come either day to the auditorium of the Legislative Building, at 16 W. Jones Street in Raleigh, or to one of the remote sites.
On Monday, one remote site will be at Caldwell Community College’s Broyhill Center, at 1913 Hickory Blvd. in Lenoir. The other will be at UNC-Wilmington’s campus at the Lumina Theater, at 615 Hamilton Dr. in Wilmington.
On Tuesday, one remote site will be on East Carolina University’s science campus, at the auditorium of the Heart Institute, at 115 Heart Drive in Greenville. The other will be at Charlotte’s Central Piedmont Community College, in the Harris Conference Center at 3216 CPCC Harris Campus Dr. in Charlotte.
See the maps
So far the public has one version of a map for the N.C. Senate and its 50 seats, one version of a map for the N.C. House and its 120 seats, and six different versions of maps for the U.S. House delegation and its 14 seats.
The following is a GOP proposal for North Carolina’s 120 state House seats. Officials are calling it HBK-11.
The following is a GOP proposal for a North Carolina’s 50 state Senate seats. Officials are calling it SST-4.
The following is one of the GOP proposals for North Carolina’s 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Officials are calling it CMT-9.
The following is one of the GOP proposals for North Carolina’s 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Officials are calling it CST-2.
The following is one of the GOP proposals for North Carolina’s 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Officials are calling it CBK-3.
The following is one of the Democratic proposals for North Carolina’s 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Officials are calling it CBK-4.
The following is one of the Democratic proposals for North Carolina’s 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Officials are calling it CBK-5.
The following is one of the Democratic proposals for North Carolina’s 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Officials are calling it CST-6.
For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Under the Dome politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it at link.chtbl.com/underthedomenc or wherever you get your podcasts.