On May 6, 2019 the North Carolina General Assembly filed HB1014: The 2020 VOTING DISTRICT VERIFICATION PROGRAM. HB1014 provides guidance on the state’s participation in the United States Census Bureau (USCB) Redistricting Data Program. Under this program, states are able to receive voting district data as a part of the redistricting data file the USCB sends to states following the 2020 Census. This data is critical for redistricting. For example, it helps map drawers identify and avoid splitting voting precincts. In order for states to receive this data they must comply with a set of guidelines set forth in the USCB Redistricting Data Program.
In an effort to comply with the guidelines set forth by the USCB Redistricting Data Program, three years ago the North Carolina General Assembly passed Session Law 2016-109. Session Law 2016-109 provides a process for the State Board of Elections and Legislative Services Office to conduct a systematic review and input of voting districts and voting precincts. In operation, this law is vague, lacks clarity and makes it difficult for the State to meet the requirements set out for participation in the USCB Redistricting Data Program. HB1014 is a proposed fix to the vagueness and flaws in Session Law 2016-109. The Bill provides clarity and better guidance for the State to comply with requirements set out for participation in the USCB Redistricting Data Program.
Under HB 1014, responsibility to provide the USCB with voting district maps (a geographic unit, which generally lines closely with voting precincts) shifts from the Board of Elections to the Legislative Services Office. The Legislative Services Office has traditionally served an important role in sending voting district maps to the USCB. This is an administrative task. The Legislative Services Office will make minor adjustments to voting district boundaries to align with geographic units provided by the Census Bureau. These geographic units are what the USCB anticipates the census block boundaries will look like following the 2020 Census. The Legislative Services Office authority only extends to adjustment of those lines to develop precinct lines based upon the latest version of the 2010 Census block boundaries. The precinct boundaries have not been changed since May 2017, and the current boundaries are technically a snapshot of the precincts as they existed on Jan 1, 2018. HB 1014 does not grant Legislative Services Office any new authority it has not already exercised in past census cycles.
Our partners will keep an eye on how this Bill unfolds and will raise alarms if they see what is anticipated to be an administrative process going off the rails.