Lawmakers in the General Assembly began drawing new maps this week as part of the redistricting process. The first map drawn Wednesday, by Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Morganton), split each of the three most populous counties in the states into three districts, a plan that would create a heavy advantage for Republicans; other early maps also favored Republicans. Legislators will continue to draw potential maps for at least another week.
Members of the NC House’s right-wing “freedom caucus” announced Thursday that they want to inspect Durham County’s voting machines, part of a months-long campaign to investigate North Carolina election equipment despite no evidence of irregularities. Durham County Board of Elections director Derek Bowens responded to the announcement by citing state regulations that prohibit anyone beyond Board of Elections staff from accessing voting machines, echoing State Board of Elections executive director Karen Brinson Bell’s response to earlier requests. The House members claimed to have picked a county at random, though Durham County voted overwhelmingly for Biden in the 2020 election.
On Wednesday the House Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform committee approved a bill that would link jury duty notifications to voter rolls. HB 259, which would also require all voting machines used in the state to be manufactured in the United States by a U.S.-headquartered company, would match names of North Carolinians who say they cannot serve on a jury due to non-citizen status to names on state voter rolls and remove matches from the rolls. This process can easily lead to erroneous removal of voters from the rolls, either due to false matches or because people’s citizenship status changes. Governor Cooper vetoed a bill in 2019 that would have linked jury duty notifications to voter rolls.
Economic and Housing Policy
Negotiations over the state budget are underway between Republican leadership of the NC General Assembly and Governor Cooper. In comments to reporters on Tuesday, Cooper re-emphasized his priorities of expanding Medicaid, investing in education, and improving teacher pay. On Wednesday, NC Senate Leader Phil Berger told reporters that Governor Cooper had provided NCGA leadership a budget counteroffer and that they were working to respond with another counteroffer.
On Thursday the NC General Assembly passed an energy bill that calls for the major power plants in the state to reduce their carbon emissions by 70% by 2030. HB 951, which also changes state regulations that control rate increases, passed the Senate 42-7 and the House 90-20. The bill is the result of months of negotiations between Governor Cooper and state legislative leaders, and Cooper is expected to sign the bill soon, despite concerns from some advocates about the burden of potential cost increases for poor families and from others about the flexible, non-binding nature of the carbon reduction requirements.