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Meck GOP State Senator Says New Maps May End Supermajority In Senate


It happened. And those who waited eagerly were finally satisfied.

No, we're not talking about the eclipse.

Today, Republican leaders in the General Assembly released the "stat packs."

Stat packs may sound like a vitamin supplement, or something you need to pick your fantasy football team.

But stat packs in this sense are all about redistricting.

Over the weekend the Republican leaders of the joint redistricting committee released their proposed maps for new State House and Senate districts.

They must comply with a court order since 28 of the 170 districts were found to be illegal racial gerrymanders.

But you need to think of these maps as a web page, or an app. They're just the pretty public face for what happened behind closed doors. The nuts and bolts - the lines of code - that is what's important and how you can tell just what may change in the partisan make-up of the General Assembly.

Here is where the 'stat packs' come in.

They are a big bucket of data on all voters in the state. Not who they voted for, but to which party they're registered and, most importantly, how each precinct voted in past elections, from president on down. This gives the map-drawers a better sense of how areas lean politically, or which political party they are solidly behind. This allows districts to be drawn in a way that helps the party in power stay in power. More simply, this is how political gerrymandering works. And political gerrymandering is legal.

But for some experienced politicians, they don’t need a 'stat pack' to tell them how their districts leans. They just know from past experience.

"I was just saying I was looking at the lake this morning and given the new maps I may be able to see more of it more frequently," said Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte, who lives in Cornelius. His district was the most affected in Mecklenburg County.

Originally, his district was pretty red.

"I kind of had a crescent moon shape that ran down the east side of Mecklenburg County. So I basically had all the north, northern suburbs and then I picked up most of Mathews and all of Mint Hill."

Now, Tarte says, his district is the mirror image. Geographically it would hug the western side of the county, not the east. "Basically the northern suburbs going down Mountain Island Lake down the west side of the county and picking up Pineville and Ballantyne."

Overall, this change makes the district much more politically balanced. "It is what it is," says Tarte, "and it's a good district. It actually is one of the districts that is pretty neutral."

Or, more precisely, more of a battleground with similar numbers of Republicans and Democrats.

The other Democratic and Republican Senators in Mecklenburg County, Tarte says, are in relatively safe districts. Politically speaking.

But, the fact Tarte is in a swing district raises an interesting question.

Republicans hold a six-seat supermajority in the Senate. Three seats in the state House. If Republicans lose that supermajority in either chamber it will be much more difficult to override the vetoes of Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.  

Senator Tarte has stayed focused on the new proposed districts for his chamber. And as for that supermajority in the Senate, will it stay intact under these new maps?

"I actually, on first glance, don’t necessarily think so," Tarte said.

Which means, if Tarte is right and these maps are enacted, there may be a whole new balance of power in Raleigh.

These proposed maps still need to go through public comment, and changes could be made. They also need to be approved by the federal judges who struck them down in the first place.