Following the 2020 census, the North Carolina General Assembly approved a controversial set of legislative maps.
Critics accuse the General Assembly of partisan gerrymandering – deliberately drawing legislative constituencies to give the ruling party an advantage over others – after Thursday approving new cards for the State Senate, the House of Representatives of the State and the United States House of Representatives.
Although North Carolina voters are almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, the Congress House district map would likely give Republicans a 10 to four seat advantage, compared to the current eight to five advantage.
NC House’s card gives Republicans 55 secure seats out of the 61 needed for a majority. Democrats should be very lucky and win 20 of 24 competitive ridings to get a majority. The state Senate map also leans heavily in favor of Republicans: there are 24 safe Republican districts, 17 safe Democratic districts, and nine toss-ups.
“[Republicans] can win a super majority in the state Senate without winning a single Democratic-leaning district, âsaid Blair Reeves, co-founder of grassroots political organization Carolina Forward.
âCrackingâ and âpackingâ are two of the most common gerrymandering strategies, according to Reeves. Cracking consists of dividing a group of voters from the opposing party into several districts. For example, the new maps divide the state’s three most populous and Democratic counties – Wake, Mecklenburg and Guilford – into three parts each, according to Natasha Marcus, Law School ’94 and Davidson Democratic State Senator Caroline. North
âThis dilutes the power of Democratic votes in these counties and divides communities of interest, placing metropolitan areas into largely rural and remote districts,â Marcus wrote.
Packing does the opposite, bringing together many opposing voters in a single district.
âAnd that creates a seat that is 80% democratic, it’s super blue. And then everything else, you just make a Republican, âReeves said.
With the help of computer modeling, cartographers can draw constituency boundaries to reduce the number of competitive seats and increase their party’s chances of winning a majority. Many voters prefer competitive elections but “a lot of politicians don’t really care about the political representation of the people, they really want to solidify their power,” Reeves said.
Democrats submitted alternative cards, which were rated A by the nonprofit Princeton Gerrymandering project. Republican-backed cards received an F rating.
“The Democrats proposed several amendments that would have corrected the violations – by drawing districts that better met the criteria adopted by the committee than the Republican map,” Marcus wrote. âYet in almost all cases Republicans rejected our amendments in order to maintain their partisan advantage. “
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In 2019, previous North Carolina congressional maps were challenged in court. In Common Cause v. Lewis, the State Supreme Court struck down the cards as partisan gerrymanders and ordered new cards to be drawn. The state legislature, however, did not change its redistribution tactics after losing the lawsuit, and was “even more aggressive,” Reeves said.
This time around, civil rights groups Southern Coalition for Social Justice, North Carolina NAACP and Common Cause filed a lawsuit even before the cards were approved. They allege that the legislature‘s failure to take racial data into account when drawing up maps violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Equal Protection Clause and the constitutional right of assembly.
Allison Riggs, co-executive director and chief voting rights lawyer at the SCJS, said the redistribution process “has failed in North Carolina by redesigning electoral districts for political purposes and depriving voters of color of their rights constitutional rights to equitable political representation “.
Anisha Reddy is a sophomore at Trinity and associate editor of The Chronicle’s 117th volume.