The Department of Justice pre-cleared North Carolina’s redrawn Congressional map today, solidifying this cycle’s most detrimental gerrymander for House Democrats.
Four Democrats — Reps. Larry Kissell, Mike McIntyre, Heath Shuler and Brad Miller — are in more danger of losing their seat next year under the new lines.
The Republicans who control the state Legislature dismantled four Democratic districts under the recently inked map, drawing 10 Republican seats and three Democratic ones. The current House delegation comprises six Republicans and seven Democrats.
The map approved by the DOJ has only three safe Democratic districts in a state that voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. They comprise two snaking majority-minority districts and a liberal bastion in the Raleigh-Durham Research Triangle.
The other 10 districts would have voted 55 percent or more for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 election, with the exception of GOP Rep. Sue Myrick’s district, which would have voted 54 percent for McCain and remains safe Republican turf.
In a letter to the special deputy attorney general in Raleigh, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who oversees the Civil Rights Division, said the attorney general does not “interpose any objection to the specified changes” to the map. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, either the DOJ or the District Court for the District of Columbia must approve changes to voting lines in certain states, including North Carolina. Once the pre-clearance is given, the laws become enforceable.
State Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Bob Rucho (R) and state House Redistricting Chairman David Lewis (R) released a joint statement hailing “today’s historic decision.”
“The Obama Justice Department’s stamp of approval on our redistricting plans confirms what we’ve said all along: these are fair and legal maps that give a strong voice to all voters,” Rucho and Lewis said. “It also should silence the racially-charged rhetoric and put to rest the baseless claim that these maps were somehow discriminatory.”
There is likely to be a lawsuit over the lines, but it’s unclear how successful it might be.
Preparing for the potential of this decision, some Members have been laying the groundwork for accepting the new political reality. Miller, who was drawn out of his district, appears likely to challenge the dean of the Democratic delegation, Rep. David Price, in the newly configured 4th district where they both now live. It includes about a third of each of their current districts, although Price has the edge in how much of it he currently represents. The 13th district, which Miller now represents, is no longer winnable for any Democrat.
One Member who doesn’t appear to have been working as if his political future depended on it is Shuler, who raised a paltry $87,000 and burned through $99,000 in the third quarter. He faces re-election in the most Republican district in the state.