The Senate gave tentative approval to its new legislative map on Friday in a 27-16 vote, with final approval to follow on Monday when the Senate resumes session at 5 p.m.
The debate on the floor saw numerous amendments and discussions about the fairness of the newly proposed Senate map, drawn by Republicans after a court ruling said that the districts were unconstitutional gerrymanders, taking race too heavily into account in the drawing of the districts.
In response to this, legislative leaders decided to redraw the maps without taking race into account, but still drawing the voting lines to maintain their Republican advantage, leading to criticism from those that would like see Democrats in charge or better represented in the legislature.
Three technical corrections amendments passed while two amendments from Democrats failed and another was withdrawn.
In the House, its proposed map was given approval in committee on Friday and will see its first floor vote on Monday.
The court has required that the legislature deliver the new maps by Sept. 1, pushing the state’s timeline up about a week, but without 2017 make-up elections to consider the reasoning for pushing the state to complete the redraw a week earlier is unclear.
So far, the courts have supported the understanding that redistricting is a political process, wherein the ruling party holds the cards and can draw the maps to suit their needs, however it is not a foolproof plan.
In 2010 Republicans swept Democrats in the House and Senate out of their leadership roles and won super majorities allowing them to override gubernatorial vetoes without a single Democrat vote. The 2010 elections were conducted under maps previously drawn by Democrats.
With 74 of the 120 House seats and 35 of the 50 Senate seats, Republicans have been able to maintain their supermajorities across the last three elections and will next face reelection in 2018. If under the new maps Republicans lose three House seats, or six in the Senate, they would lose their super majority.
Legislators were required to redraw 28 districts in total, nine in the Senate and the remaining 19 in the House, but to fix those districts requires finagling with all, or nearly all, of the 170 legislative districts.
Four of the proposed House districts include more than one sitting House member – including Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, a Democrat, and Rep. Susan Martin, a Republican, who are double bunked in Wilson County,
Rep. Jon Hardister and Rep. John Faircloth, both Republicans who are in the same district in Guilford County, Rep. Carl Ford and Rep. Larry Pittman, also Republicans, are packed into a district in Cabarrus County. And finally Republican Rep. John Sauls and Democrat Rep. Robert Reives are in the same district in Lee County.
Under the maps Chatham County has become its own district and has no incumbent.
On the Senate side four districts have been double bunked including Wake County, where Sen. Chad Barefoot is placed with Sen. John Alexander. Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, a North Hampton Democrat is placed with Sen. Bill Cook, a Beaufort County Republican in the northeastern part of the state, Republicans Sen. Deanna Ballard and Sen. Shirley Randleman are both in a western district including Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga, and Wilkes counties in their entirety and part of Surry County, and Republicans Sen. Joyce Krawiec and Sen. Dan Barrett are sharing Forsyth County.
Four of the Senate districts, as the maps are currently drawn, have no incumbent, including one on the west side of Wake County, a district covering the sparsely populated counties in the northeast, the Rowan and Stanly county district and the Yadkin/Iredell county district.