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Map by Map, G.O.P. Chips Away at Black Democrats’ Power

Republicans, who have vastly more control over redistricting nationally than Democrats do, defend their maps as legal and fair, giving a range of reasons.

Kirk Smith, the Republican chairman of Lee County’s board of commissioners, said that “to say only a person of a certain racial or ethnic group can represent only a person of the same racial or ethnic group has all the trappings of ethnocentric racism.”

In North Carolina and elsewhere, Republicans say that their new maps are race-blind, meaning officials used no racial data in designing the maps and therefore could not have drawn racially discriminatory districts because they had no idea where communities of color were.

“During the 2011 redistricting process, legislators considered race when drawing districts,” Ralph Hise, a Republican state senator in North Carolina, said in a statement. Through a spokesperson, he declined to answer specific questions, citing pending litigation.

His statement continued: “We were then sued for considering race and ordered to draw new districts. So during this process, legislators did not use any racial data when drawing districts, and we’re now being sued for not considering race.”

In other states, mapmakers have declined to add new districts with majorities of people of color even though the populations of minority residents have boomed. In Texas, where the population has increased by four million since the 2010 redistricting cycle, people of color account for more than 95 percent of the growth, but the State Legislature drew two new congressional seats with majority-white populations.

And in states like Alabama and South Carolina, Republican map drawers are continuing a decades-long tradition of packing nearly all of the Black voting-age population into a single congressional district, despite arguments from voters to create two separate districts. In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said on Thursday that the Republican-controlled State Legislature should draw a second majority-Black House district.

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