Under the Dome

See the proposed NC Senate map

From the proposed 2017 NC Senate map
From the proposed 2017 NC Senate map NC General Assembly

State lawmakers released a proposed map for the North Carolina Senate on Sunday evening, part of a court-ordered redrawing of election lines.

The Republican-drawn Senate map comes a day after the release of a proposed House map. Neither map includes demographic data for the proposed districts, which is expected Monday.

Attempts to reach Sen. Ralph Hise, a Mitchell County Republican who serves as the co-chair of the General Assembly’s joint redistricting committee, were unsuccessful.

Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake Forest Republican, announced Sunday he would not run for a fourth term in the Senate, less than an hour before the map emerged that proposed placing Barefoot in the same district as Republican Sen. John Alexander of Raleigh.

“A higher priority has always been growing and nurturing our family, and since 2012 we’ve added three beautiful children,” Barefoot, co-chairman of the Senate education committee, wrote in his announcement. “As my legislative responsibilities grew over the past five years, so did my responsibilities at home. I feel now is the right time for me to focus more on being a dad than a state senator, and so I won't be running for re-election in 2018.

Public hearings on the proposed maps are scheduled for Tuesday, and the committee’s other co-chair, Harnett County Republican Rep. David Lewis, has said he hopes the House will take a vote on Friday.

Lawmakers drew new state Senate and House districts after courts ruled that the current maps, drawn in 2011, are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. Nine of the state’s 50 Senate districts were deemed unconstitutional, along with 19 House districts.

Three federal judges who ruled the 2011 districts weakened the overall influence of black voters have ordered new maps drawn, approved and delivered to the court by Sept. 1.

Thomas Hofeller, a veteran mapmaker for the Republican Party, helped legislative leaders draw both sets of maps.

The new map’s District 18, home to Barefoot and Alexander, is one of four “double-bunked” districts, meaning that each puts two incumbent senators in the same district:

▪  Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, a Democrat from Northampton County, and Sen. Bill Cook, a Republican from Beaufort County, are double-bunked in a northeastern North Carolina district that includes Northampton and Beaufort as well as Martin, Bertie, Warren and Vance counties.

▪ Two Republicans – Sens. Deanna Ballard and Shirley Randleman – are both placed in a western district that includes all of Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany and Wilkes counties and part of Surry County.

▪  In Davie County and part of Forsyth County, Republican Sen. Joyce Krawiec is placed in a district with Republican Dan Barrett, who was selected last week to fill the seat vacated earlier this summer by the resignation of Sen. Andrew Brock. Barrett is still waiting for a formal appointment from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Four proposed House districts include more than one sitting House member, Lewis said.

Four Senate districts have no incumbent. One is in western Wake County. Another covers most of the northeastern counties – Hertford, Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, Washington, Tyrrell, Hyde and Dare. One is made up of Rowan and Stanly counties and another of Yadkin and Iredell counties.

Earlier this month Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Union County Republican, announced he was not running for re-election. So his district in the proposed new maps will also have an open seat.

Republicans hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate, with 74 of the 120 House seats and 35 of the 50 Senate seats – allowing them to override Cooper’s vetoes. If Republicans lost three House seats they would lose their veto-proof majority.

The legislature is responsible for drawing legislative and congressional districts every 10 years based on Census data. The governor has no role in approving district maps.

District lines are key factors in influencing elections. Democrats have complained for years that Republicans drew unfair lines in an attempt to secure legislative control. Republicans made similar arguments when Democrats controlled the legislature.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court in June unanimously affirmed the ruling finding racial gerrymandering, voting rights organizations and others have criticized the General Assembly for waiting until late August to release the proposed district lines and supporting data to the public.

The new maps lack the data and files the mapmakers used to shape the new districts. Because of that, attorneys representing the challengers of the 2011 districts weren’t able to immediately analyze the effect of the proposed lines.

Lauren Horsch: 919-836-2801, @LaurenHorsch