North Carolina legislators on Friday passed a new set of Congressional maps that would endanger two Republican representatives in next year's election, after a court said last month their existing district maps were a partisan gerrymander that violated the state’s constitution.
Democrats say the proposed map — which is expected to give Republicans an 8-5 advantage over Democrats in the purple state — favor Republicans too much and should be tossed.
“The congressional map passed by Republicans in the North Carolina legislature simply replaces one partisan gerrymander with a new one,” former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement that announced a legal challenge to the remedial maps.
Holder chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, whose sister group, the National Redistricting Foundation, is supporting a group of North Carolina voters challenging the maps in court.
The maps passed Friday created two new Democratic-leaning districts around Greensboro and Raleigh. In the current map, the cities were split into different districts, diluting the urban, Democratic voters between more rural, red districts. Republican Reps. George Holding and Mark Walker will face much tougher re-elections under the new maps.
The maps were approved by the state Senate on Friday without a single Democratic vote, Republicans said.
"The Democrats who sued to prohibit partisan redistricting have demanded their preferred partisan outcomes in exchange for voting to support new Congressional maps," state Sen. Ralph Hise, a Republican who co-chairs the Senate Committee on Redistricting and Elections, said in a statement. "Such brazen hypocrisy is astounding."
Democrats criticized the redistricting process.
“It’s important to understand that Republicans redrew the maps in the absence of a court order,” Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson said Friday night.
Earlier this year, a state court threw out state legislative maps and dictated rules for the the legislature’s redistricting process. It limited the use of data and outside experts and demanded the process take place in the public eye.
The resulting maps earned some bipartisan support, but when the Congressional districts were challenged with the same court shortly afterward, the court issued a preliminary injunction asking for new maps. The injunction did not order the same narrow process.
Democrats allege the Republicans took advantage of that.
“They got to use all their old tricks. The product was a fundamentally partisan process," said Jackson, who represents Mecklenberg, North Carolina.
During the livestreamed map drawing process, Hise could be seen leaving the room frequently and returning with specific changes, leading many to believe Republicans were discussing maps behind closed doors in pursuit of partisan advantage.
Pat Ryan, a spokesman for the Republican state Senate President Phil Berger, said Democrats were seeking their own unfair advantage, so the GOP did not use their proposed changes in the Congressional maps.
"They had a predetermined partisan outcome in mind," Ryan said.
Walker, one of the endangered Republicans, tweeted on Friday that he would still run.
"I love the people of NC and I will keep fighting for them — no matter what liberal attorneys, judicial activists and politicians in Raleigh do in self-interest," he wrote in one tweet, noting in another that he had run and won with two different district lines since his election in 2014. "We did it with a new district in 2016. We will do it again in 2020."