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GOP lawmakers say their maps did not use political or racial data

 Sam Hirsch, an attorney for the League of Conservation Voters, testifies Wednesday about the state's political maps.
Courtesy of WRAL
Sam Hirsch, an attorney for the League of Conservation Voters, testifies Wednesday about the state's political maps.

North Carolina Republicans laid out their defense Wednesday in the trial over whether their c ongressional and state legislative maps are unconstitutional gerrymanders.

Brigham Young University political science professor Michael Barber, who was a witness for the legislature, presented his own analysis of the maps for state House and Senate districts .

He said Republican map-makers did not draw maps that extremely benefit ted the GOP.

“Given the results of the analysis that I conduct e d and my review of the analysis conducted by other experts, it’s my view that the enacted plan does not rise to that level,” Barber said.

Barber’s testimony focused on the state House and Senate maps.

The first part of the map-making process for the General Assembly was to create so-called clusters of counties. That wasn’t controversial.

Barber noted that in most county clusters, both plaintiffs and defendants didn’t dispute the number of seats that either party would be expected to win.

Part of his testimony focused on the fact that expert witnesses for the Democratic-aligned plaintiffs disagreed on whether some House and Senate seats inside certain clusters were gerrymanders or not. He said that because the plaintiffs’ experts differed on how many seats Democrats would be expected to win in certain parts of the state, it would be too difficult for a court to determine what is fair and what isn’t.

But on cross - examination, attorney Stanton Jones, representing the plaintiffs, told Barber that Barber’s own analysis showed that the Republicans outperformed the expected number of seats they would win.

And then he asked him about how the Democrats did.

“I take it you don’t know how many times Democrats outperformed a majority of your simulations for all of those elections, across all those House clusters you analyzed, do you?” Jones asked.

“I have a feeling you are going to tell me , ” Barber said .

Jones then replied, “It was zero.”

Republican state Sen. Ralph Hise, who co-chaired the Senate redistricting committee, testified that Republican lawmakers did not use racial or political dat a when drawing their maps.

He said the GOP emphasized keeping municipalities whole. That decision likely led to Democrats losing more influence in the Congressional map since it packed Democratic voters into the same district.

On Tuesday, North Carolina State University political science professor David Taylor testified for the legislative leadership. In a comparison of other states, he said North Carolina has few rules in its state constitution guiding state lawmakers as to how they draw maps. Because there are few rules, he said it’s difficult for any map to be considered a gerrymander, so long as it doesn’t violate federal law.

The three-judge panel is expected to make a ruling on the maps by January 11th.

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