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N.C. lawmakers approve redistricting maps boosting Republicans in Congress

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Republicans are set to gain at least three congressional seats under a new map approved yesterday by North Carolina lawmakers. Democrats in the state say their GOP colleagues are subverting the will of voters. From member station WUNC, here's Rusty Jacobs.

RUSTY JACOBS, BYLINE: Last year, a Democratic majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court overruled Republican-drawn district maps for being unconstitutionally gerrymandered with excessive partisan bias. A court-ordered map yielded a 7-7 split in the state's congressional delegation. Now the new map, approved by the GOP-dominated legislature this week, will wipe out that parody, according to Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer.

MICHAEL BITZER: What this new map does is shift considerably to the Republicans.

JACOBS: Bitzer says Republicans will very likely win at least 10 seats under the new map, and the GOP was able to draw a more favorable map because Republicans flipped the state Supreme Court majority. That majority reversed last year's partisan gerrymandering decision.

BITZER: And said, no, this is really a political question that the courts can't determine. It's best left up to the legislature.

JACOBS: Bitzer says that means GOP lawmakers could do more packing and cracking, packing Democratic voters into just a few districts and cracking other Democratic-heavy areas to dilute their vote by attaching them to red-leaning rural areas. Ann Webb says the Republican maps amount to a power grab and suppress the voices of voters, especially in Black communities. Webb is policy director with Common Cause North Carolina, a government watchdog group.

ANN WEBB: We know that all voters deserve to have their vote count equally, and that is not what these maps do. And it is clear that that was not the intent of the legislative leadership.

JACOBS: House redistricting committee chairman Destin Hall maintains Republicans drew the maps according to traditional redistricting criteria, like minimizing the splitting of municipalities.

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DESTIN HALL: What will determine if we have majorities in this body will be the principles that we've passed throughout this decade.

JACOBS: Priorities like restricting abortion and eliminating the need for a permit to purchase a handgun, measures that Republicans have passed into law this year.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Fair maps now. Fair maps now.

JACOBS: Opponents of the GOP plans disrupted Senate debate this week, but the political reality suggests the maps won't change this time around.

For NPR News, I'm Rusty Jacobs in Raleigh, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rusty Jacobs

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