North Carolina is close to a state 50-50 in the US presidential and senatorial elections, so Democrats have said a fair congressional card should give them the edge in seven US House seats and Republicans the advantage in seven – or maybe a card that favors Republicans in eight seats and Democrats in six.
But Republicans say these are not fair cards.
To support this claim, the GOP points to an analysis paid for by the same groups that are suing Republicans.
In late November, University of Michigan political science professor Jowei Chen filed a report with the court in support of the plaintiffs in the state’s gerrymandering case, which is to be the subject of a three-day trial starting January 3. There are several lawsuits that have been combined, including one by individual residents as well as by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters.
Chen said that when he has a computer to draw 1,000 cards, a 7-7 split is extremely rare, occurring about 3% of the time. Chen determined this by overlaying the results of all statewide North Carolina elections from 2016 to 2020.
When only using the 2020 presidential election results, the computer only drew a 7-7 map 1% of the time.
A card that gives Republicans the advantage in eight of 14 seats would occur 16% of the time based on last year’s presidential election.
Chen finds that a Republican 9-5 card is by far the most common, occurring almost 74% of the time.
Republicans say their card, which gives the GOP the advantage in 10 of 14 seats, should not be struck down by the courts.
“You have received a lot from the Democratic Party and others, criticizing our maps, our impacts, saying we have gerrymandered the state,” said Republican State Senator Ralph Hise, who co-chaired the committee. redistribution. “And now you have their expert coming in and showing a strong majority that their cards produce nine or 10 Republicans if they draw fair cards on all 14 seats.”
Urban counties are divided in three ways
While Chen said a map with nine Republican seats was the most common, Republicans went beyond that. They created a map with nine safe seats and a 10e which leans republican. A map with 10 Republican seats was created in 9% of computer-drawn maps based on the 2020 presidential results.
So, Chen’s analysis suggests the Republicans took advantage of their advantage – or gerrymandering – to create their 10-4 card. They diluted Democratic voters in Mecklenburg, Wake and Guilford counties – the three largest in the state – by dividing those counties into three districts. In Guilford, headquarters of Greensboro, the seat of Democratic Representative of the United States, Kathy Mannings, has been eliminated entirely.
The three secure Democratic seats are in Charlotte and the Triangle, which includes Raleigh.
Guilford County Democratic voter Nicole Quick was one of the plaintiffs who hired Chen, with the help of former Obama administration attorney general Eric Holder, whose organization, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, has sued for what it sees as unfair cards nationwide.
“I think what they did was they tried to take these urban centers that have this great concentration of Democratic voters and dilute that vote,” Quick said.
Chen’s report criticizes the Republican card for having few competitive seats.
“Maximizing the adopted plan of ‘mid-range’ Republican districts necessarily comes at the expense of creating more competitive districts,” Chen wrote.
He added: “… in terms of the total number of Republican-friendly districts created by the plan, the plan adopted in 2021 is a statistical outlier compared to the 1,000 computer-simulated plans.”
But the report also suggests that if the court orders the legislature to draw a new map, Republicans may not have to change much, perhaps returning only a seat to Democrats.
Hise declined to speculate on what that card might be if the Republicans lost.
“If someone somewhere in the courts tells us to draw in different circumstances with new criteria invented, we don’t know what that result can be,” Hise said.
Bob Phillips is the executive director of Common Cause NC, which is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
He’s worried because the GOP is locked down for nine safe seats but is favored in a 10e seat and might even win an 11e.
“The third party analysis that I’ve seen and reviewed has made it very likely or should I say very well to be an 11-3 card,” Phillips said.
Phillips is particularly worried about a rural seat in the northeastern part of the state that the GOP has made more of a tossup, with a Democrat now favored by just 3.5 points. GK Butterfield has held this seat since 2004 and is a past Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. He is not running for office and said part of his decision was because his constituency lost black voters.
“It’s fair to raise questions about a seat in the Northeast that has been centered where North Carolina’s so-called black belt is, and those are the majority minority counties.”
Is a proposed substitution map realistic?
In its lawsuit, the League of Conservation Voters are asking the court to use its own congressional card. He favors the Democrats in eight of the 14 seats.
But in his 1,000-card computer-drawn simulation, Chen never produced a single card with eight Democratic seats.
Princeton’s non-partisan project Gerrymandering gave the North Carolina congressional card an “F” rating for its fairness. This group said that in their computer simulations, a card with a Republican 8-6 majority was the most common.
Adam Podowitz-Thomas, a legal strategist with the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, told the WFAE earlier this year he viewed the North Carolina map as a gerrymander against the Democrats – but not the country’s most egregious example . He said a Republican-drawn map in Texas and a Democratic map in Illinois are worse.
Dave Wasserman, of the Cook Political Report, said he believes Republicans have a good chance of taking the house from the United States next year. But he said this year’s redistribution cycle hadn’t been so bad for Democrats, and the party is on the right track to have more districts won by President Joe Biden than in 2020.
In its lawsuit, the League of Conservation Voters are asking the court to use its own congressional card. This favors the Democrats in eight of the 14 seats to be filled.
But in Chen’s simulation of 1,000 computer-drawn maps, his simulation never produced a single map with eight Democratic seats.