After reviewing at least 11 proposals, the North Carolina General Assembly finally approved a new congressional map November 4th – and it’s one of the more republican maps they could have chosen. But this is probably not the end of the reorganization saga in the Tar Heel state.
District reorganization is usually a once-every-decade process, but in North Carolina, courts have repeatedly ordered new Congressional maps to be drawn due to extreme fraud. And given that both racial and partisan fraud the lawsuits have already been filed against this new map, it remains to be seen whether it will survive.
The previous congressional map of North Carolina – namely the one used in last year’s election – has already yielded Republicans eight seats and Democrats five seats in one state, President Biden lost just 1 percentage point, but the new map gives the GOP an even greater advantage. According to our analysis, creates 10 Republican seats, three Democratic seats and one highly competitive seat.
The approved map has an efficiency gap of R + 20.1, an increase of 11.6 points over the old map, which had an efficiency gap of R + 8.5. (Efficiency gap it is a measure of which party has the most “wasted” votes, ie votes that do not contribute to a candidate’s victory. This means that the new map is twice as efficient for Republicans as the old map, which was already efficient enough for them.) Under the new map, North Carolina’s median congressional district is now 11.4 points redder than the state as a whole. In other words, Democrats would have to win North Carolina by 11.4 points just to win half of its seats in Congress.
The new map strengthens Republicans in the state through redeployment, both from giving the state a 14th district, which the Republican-majority General Assembly used to give their party a double-digit advantage, and making two seats currently held by Democrats far less blue. One such seat is the Sixth Borough, which formerly comprised all of Guilford County and part of Forsyth County. The new map divides the old sixth into four districts, which contradicts the chair of the House Reorganization Committee, Destin Hall, complaint that the committee “focused only on traditional criteria such as maintaining entire counties and cities” when drawing the maps. This change is sure to lead to an unlikely re-election for Democratic Representative Kathy Manning. In the new map, Manning represents the new 11th District, which has a Republican slant of 16 points.
The other Democratic seat that the new map weakens is Democratic Representative GK Butterfield’s 1st district, which is now numbered as 2nd district on the approved map. Butterfield borough goes from Democrat skewed by 7 points to Democrat skewed by only 1 point.
This isn’t the first time North Carolina has drawn maps that favor one group over others. During the 2010s, the state had two maps thrown in court due to racial and partisan fraud. Following the initial map in 2011, courts ruled in 2016 that the state map had been racially manipulated to disadvantage black voters in the state, a decision that was supported by the Supreme Court. Then, in 2019, a state court rejected North Carolina’s 2016 map because it was rejected a partisan lumberjack which gave the Republicans an edge.
This time, probably in an attempt to isolate yourself from multiple fraud lawsuits, legislative cartographers announced their reorganization criteria upfront, which included adhering to the 2019 court decree that did not use biased or racial data when creating the new maps. But as we’ve seen, the 2021 Congressional Map gives Republicans an even greater advantage than before. And by omitting the racial data, lawmakers could be in conflict with the Voting rights law, which requires states to design largely non-white districts in areas where voting is racially polarized so that those communities have a voice in Congress.
In particular, the new map could jeopardize the ability of black residents in the new 2nd district (Butterfield district) to elect the representative of their choice. The new district has a population of voting age that is only 38 percent black, down from 41 percent on the old map. It’s also 51 percent white, which is up from 48 percent. While this may seem like a small difference, just change the district from one that would likely elect a Democrat to one that could easily elect a Republican.
Legal challenges to the new state map have already begun. Considering the map’s partisan slant and its possible violations of the Voting Rights Act, the 2021 map could join the maps of the past decade and be rejected by the courts.
Even before the map was approved, the North Carolina NAACP, Common Cause, and state residents filed a lawsuit arguing that the new map deprives voters of their own color because Lawmakers have decided not to take racial data into account when drawing them. The lawsuit argues that lawmakers must consider racial data to ensure black voters can elect their preferred candidate. For their part, the Republican legislators let’s say there is a precedent for not using racial data: The 2019 map has been approved without using it.
Exit polls can’t always explain how voters vote
So the map face a lawsuit due to the fact that he is a partisan bandit. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who regularly voted for Democrats, argue that the new map groups Democrats into districts like the 9th district of the Charlotte area (to waste as many Democratic votes as possible) and cracks other Democratic strongholds like the Piedmontese Triad (the current Manning district) to minimize their voting power. While the Supreme Court has decided (in one case involving North Carolina) that partisan fraud is a political issue outside the jurisdiction of the federal courts, this lawsuit will be decided by state courts, many of which have not been shy about tearing down maps for partisan fraud, even in North Carolina in 2019. And as Democrats currently hold a 4-3 majority in the Supreme Court of North Carolina, this lawsuit could find a receptive audience.
Whether the courts will overturn the new map of North Carolina remains to be seen, but the legal battle over them could further erode North Americans’ confidence in the reorganization process. Both in Tar Heel state and nationwide, Voters see fraud as a serious problem and they are skeptical that their maps will be fair due to the partisan nature of the trial. Based on the new map of North Carolina, this skepticism seems well founded.