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North Carolina lawmakers approve maps creating gains for the GOP in Congress

While other senators look at the map on their computers, Republican Sen. Ralph Hise, top right, one of the sponsors of a congressional redistricting bill, speaks as the North Carolina Senate debates the bill Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C.
Chris Seward
/
AP
While other senators look at the map on their computers, Republican Sen. Ralph Hise, top right, one of the sponsors of a congressional redistricting bill, speaks as the North Carolina Senate debates the bill Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C.

North Carolina Republicans gave final approval Wednesday to new political districts that are likely to hand the party more seats in Congress next year.

The state's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, does not have the power to veto the districts drawn by the legislature's GOP majority.

The new map divvies up the state's 14 congressional districts into 10 districts that favor Republicans, three that favor Democrats and one that is considered competitive between the two major parties, according to analysts.

North Carolina currently has a delegation split 7-7 between Democrats and Republicans, after a court-ordered map was used in the 2022 elections.

However, in that election, the North Carolina Supreme Court shifted to lean conservative, and the new majority promptly reversed an earlier court ruling that struck down Republicans' map as an excessive partisan gerrymander.

At least three more seats in Congress could be particularly helpful for the GOP. After infighting, the party's conference, with a razor-thin majority in the U.S. House, finally elected a new speaker on Wednesday.

Other redistricting fights playing out in courts and statehouses across the country could also determine the U.S. House results next year.

Additionally, North Carolina Republicans are passing new districts that could solidify their power in the state's General Assembly.

Irving Joyner, a professor at North Carolina Central University School of Law, says the new maps could ensure that Republicans in the state legislature can maintain veto-proof majorities for the next several years.

"What the legislature did was not a surprise to anyone who was in contact with the history or knew the inclinations of this General Assembly," Joyner says. "And so we ended up with pretty much what we had concluded was going to occur here in North Carolina."

North Carolina has a long history of drawing maps that overwhelmingly favor Republicans, despite the fact that the state's electorate is almost evenly divided between the parties.

In the 2020 election, Donald Trump edged Joe Biden by about 1.3%.

"In some instances, the Democratic vote outpaced the Republican vote," Irving says. "But the way that the lines have been authored over this last decade, it gives an advantage to Republican parties."

It is very likely these new maps will end up in court, but opponents would have to prove the districts were drawn with racial animus. That's because both the North Carolina Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have now said that partisan gerrymandering is OK.

Republican state Sen. Ralph Hise said during a redistricting committee hearing earlier this month that his committee specifically decided not to use race in drawing the new maps in an effort "strictly to protect the state from lawsuits alleging illegal racial gerrymandering."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.
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