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North Carolina Lawmakers Approve Redistricting Plan


Two Republican members of Congress from North Carolina may have a hard time winning reelection next year. The congressional lines in that state are changing. Last month, a state court blocked North Carolina's congressional map from being used in 2020. They ruled it was an extreme partisan gerrymander, a violation of the state constitution. And under pressure from the court, state lawmakers approved a new set of electoral maps yesterday. Jeff Tiberii of member station WUNC joins us. Thanks so much for being with us.

JEFF TIBERII, BYLINE: Glad to be with you.

SIMON: Specifically, Jeff, what's changing?

TIBERII: Well, despite this being a pretty evenly divided state, the congressional delegation here is pretty lopsided. It currently consists of 10 Republicans and three Democrats. And what is widely expected to happen under these new congressional districts, if they hold, is that this would move to an 8-5 delegation. So two seats that are presently Republican would move to a much more urban constituency and Democratic constituency. This would leave sitting Republican Congressmen George Holding and Mark Walker with a very tough road ahead in 2020. And it likely makes things a little bit more even. But we heard plenty of discord from Democrats this week.

SIMON: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that federal courts can't step into these gerrymandering cases, which, of course, moves a lot of them to the state courts. How much is North Carolina perceived to be a test case for other states?

TIBERII: I think very much so. Attorneys who have argued cases in state court in recent months have acknowledged that they hope that the arguments they've been making will very much serve as a blueprint in other states. And we're talking about congressional redistricting, but it's also important to note that there has been, similarly, a successful legislative challenge. But also, there has been a challenge in the partisan gerrymandering realm to legislative districts. So legislative districts were blocked back in September, and that led to a redraw of more than 70 state House and state Senate seats. So the hope here is that what has happened in North Carolina, which is very much a gerrymandered state - that's going to be utilized in other states as congressional maps. And also, legislative maps are challenged.

SIMON: And North Carolina, as you note, has been at the center of so many fights about redistricting - legislative, judicial, lawsuits. Does this new plan settle those?

TIBERII: No, I don't think so. Fight is certainly not over. The plaintiffs who filed suit in this congressional case had a release Friday afternoon within minutes of the maps receiving the final legislative approval stating that they were going to challenge the new congressional districts in court. And it remains to be seen whether or not this new congressional map, the one that likely, again, would yield that 8-5 split, is going to hold or if the judges are going to take further action. It's also worth noting that the timeline here is fairly condensed. North Carolina has moved up its primary. As of now, it is scheduled to be a Super Tuesday state in 2020. And candidate filing begins in less than three weeks.

SIMON: Jeff Tiberii, Capitol Bureau Chief at member station WUNC, thanks so much for being with us.

TIBERII: You're welcome, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF RATATAT'S "BREAKING AWAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Tiberii first started posing questions to strangers after dinner at La Cantina Italiana, in Massachusetts, when he was two-years-old. Jeff grew up in Wayland, Ma., an avid fan of the Boston Celtics, and took summer vacations to Acadia National Park (ME) with his family. He graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and moved to North Carolina in 2006. His experience with NPR member stations WAER (Syracuse), WFDD (Winston-Salem) and now WUNC, dates back 15 years.