The Court Accepted the New Legislative Maps. What Does This Mean for 2020?

It’s good news/bad news for NC’s maps in today’s state court rulings. A three-judge panel granted an injunction that blocks congressional candidate filing under NC’s current congressional map and wrote that “there is a substantial likelihood that Plaintiffs will prevail on the merits of this action by showing beyond a reasonable doubt that the 2016 congressional districts are extreme partisan gerrymanders in violation of the North Carolina Constitution…”

In a separate ruling, the same three-judge panel approved new legislative maps (NC House and NC Senate) submitted to the court by the GOP-led NCGA. While these maps are, unquestionably, an improvement over those they replace, they leave in place a handful of extreme partisan gerrymanders – and maintain a clear partisan advantage for Republicans.

Meet a FLIPster – Marshall Botvinick

Marshall discovered FLIP NC through Durham for Organizing Action meetings following the 2016 election. He’s canvassed with FLIP NC nearly 10 times and is heartened by how eager people are to talk about current political events. He offers this advice to his fellow canvassers: “Listen to what the other person is telling you and respond to them on a personal level.”

Marshall is part of FLIP NC’s new four-person Alamance Leadership Team. Click here to sign up for an upcoming Alamance canvass! House District 63 in this county is one of the most flippable districts in North Carolina. In 2018, Dems fell short of flipping this seat by about 300 votes, and it will become an even better target for Democrats in 2020.

Read on to learn more about why Marshall is fired up for the 2020 election.

Race to the Bottom: We Can’t Rely on the Top of the Ticket When It Comes to Down-Ballot Voting

When Democrats turn out – and vote the full ticket – we win. Our problem? Republicans are better at both. It’s why the GOP was able to take over our state legislature in 2010 and how we got the resulting gerrymandered maps that put us where we are today.

To restore the democratic institutions of our state and our country, we’re going to need to compete up and down the ballot. And the critical state legislative races we need to win in 2020 will be far down the ballot. Now is our opportunity to talk with left-leaning voters about why these races are so important – and what is at stake in 2020 – before top-of-the-ticket campaigns steal the show.

Importantly, we can’t rely on up-ballot candidates to win these races for us. Turnout for down-ballot races can help drive up-ballot voting, but it doesn’t always work in reverse.

D.C. is a sh*tshow. Why is FLIP NC focused on the state legislature?

D.C. is a sh*tshow. Why is FLIP NC focused on the state legislature?

FLIP NC was founded in January 2017, the week Trump was inaugurated, when a group of friends got together at a bar to drown our sorrows – and to figure out wtf we were going to do about it.

We’d attended our share of Moral Mondays, protesting the regressive, anti-democratic policies of our illegitimate, GOP-controlled state legislature over the past several years, but it took Trump’s ascension to the White House for us to do more than chant and wave signs.

So if Trump is what finally drove us to take action, why does the state legislature remain FLIP NC’s primary focus?

The 5 Serious Problems with the Republican Maps

In a 357-page ruling on September 3, the NC Courts ordered the GOP-controlled legislature to create remedial legislative maps that correct partisan gerrymandering in 14 county groupings in the NC House and 7 county groupings in the NC Senate. The Court’s ruling clearly described the nature of the gerrymanders in each area and ordered the legislature to draw the remedial maps in full public view based on non-partisan criteria.

It should have been straightforward to create fair maps that remedy the gerrymanders identified by the Court. Instead, the GOP created a bizarre plan for drawing the new maps, deciding to select as a base map one of the 1,000 simulated maps entered as evidence in the case by an expert witness, Dr. Jowei Chen, and then adopt changes from there. Dr. Chen’s maps were produced as a statistical tool for testing partisan bias and were not at all guaranteed to fix the gerrymanders identified by the Court.

So it came as no surprise that, while this procedure produced reasonably fair maps in a number of county groupings, it left extreme partisan gerrymanders in place in others.

Monday’s Public Redistricting Sessions at NCGA Cause Chaos, Concern

At both the NC House and NC Senate redistricting sessions on Monday, Republican lawmakers proposed (without warning or clarity) a process for re-drawing legislative maps that is intended to appear non-partisan but has the potential to be anything but. The proposed process will use one of Dr. Jowei Chen’s (an expert witness for the plaintiffs) 1,000 simulated maps as a baseline, narrowing the list to the top 25% of maps in compactness, a criterion that notably does not preclude splitting municipalities. The legislature will then consider amending the selected maps but likely only in very limited ways, according to Rep. Lewis.

Dr. Chen’s maps were randomly generated using standard non-partisan criteria to show the distribution of likely outcomes if the maps were drawn using non-partisan criteria. Dr. Chen demonstrated that NC’s current legislative maps are extreme outliers and illustrated how far outside the expected range the challenged districts fall.

By using as a base one of Dr. Chen’s maps, which were specifically drawn for the purpose of testing the enacted maps, Republicans may be trying to set up an argument that choosing any of Dr. Chen’s 1,000 maps would pass the partisan gerrymandering test—while leaving ample room to create maps that continue to give the GOP an extreme partisan advantage. Here’s why…

What Would Fair(er) Maps Look Like in NC?

Last Tuesday, the Wake County Superior Court struck down North Carolina’s legislative maps, ruling in Common Cause v. Lewis that their extreme partisan gerrymandering violates our state constitution. Republicans drew the maps to secure a significant partisan advantage in both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA), sometimes “packing” Democratic voters into fewer districts to give Republicans a partisan advantage and at other times “cracking” Democratic voters across multiple districts to dilute their votes.

The 357-page ruling lays out a tremendous amount of evidence regarding the tactics the GOP used to lock in its extreme partisan advantage—and issues a strong rebuke. It gives the GOP-controlled legislature two weeks (with a Sept. 18 deadline) to publicly redraw “remedial maps,” directing it to redraw 56 NC House and 21 NC Senate districts. The ruling further decrees that the court will “appoint a Referee to (1) assist the Court in reviewing any Remedial Maps enacted by the General Assembly; and (2) to develop remedial maps for the Court should the General Assembly fail to enact lawful Remedial Maps within the time allowed.”

While we’re celebrating this ruling, it remains to be seen whether this process will bring an end to the NC GOP’s partisan gerrymandering and lead to truly fair maps. No matter what process they use to draw the maps, the GOP knows these districts, and they don’t need partisan data at their fingertips to build in unfair advantages for themselves. While they may propose a process that appears nonpartisan or bipartisan, they likely know what the outcome will be, and their history suggests that they’ll choose a process that benefits them to whatever extent that they can.

In this post, we lay out where we would expect to see a newly expanded playing field under fair maps – and what to watch out for from the GOP.

Meet a FLIPster – Katy McDougall-Collins

Katy discovered FLIP NC through “Pod Save America” (thanks, Lovett!). She learned about Indivisible during an episode of the podcast, went to Indivisible’s website, and that led her to our chapter. She has canvassed with FLIP NC about a dozen times. Her top canvassing tip? “Relax, be yourself, and have fun.” (Check out this video – Katy and her fellow FLIPsters demonstrate how easy canvassing is!)

Katy is a member of the new four-person FLIP NC Wake Leadership Team, which already has three successful canvasses and a happy hour social under their belt (and more events are scheduled – join us!). A Raleigh resident, Katy works in the digital world, “wearing a few different hats working on websites.”

Here, a Q&A with Katy.

Meet a FLIPster – Helen Poston

Helen came to her first FLIP NC event last July – our 99 Days to FLIP NC! event at Motorco – after seeing information pop up on her Facebook feed. Since then, she has canvassed with us about 10 times and recently joined our newly formed four-person Wake Leadership Team. They already have two canvasses under their belt (and more are scheduled – sign up!).

A Durham resident, Helen grew up in southern Wake County and works at Biogen as a manager in the patient services department. She and her husband Glenn are parents to an adorable 5-year-old, Nate. Helen has been politically engaged since the 2008 election but only volunteered a few times per election cycle back then. After the 2016 election, like many others, she realized that she had to get more involved. In addition to her work with FLIP NC, she is the team lead for Headcount in the Raleigh/Durham area.  

Here, a Q&A with Helen.

Want to Flip a District? Run a Woman.

Want to Flip a District? Run a Woman.

Ask an old-guard Democrat what kind of candidate is the safest bet to flip a competitive seat in the North Carolina General Assembly, and you’ll get a pretty predictable answer: A white man. But the 2018 numbers tell a very different story.

Of the 35 Democratic candidates who ran in NC’s most competitive GOP-held legislative districts, 13 are women and 22 are men (across 23 NC House and 12 NC Senate races). Compared with 2016 results, the women outperformed Hillary Clinton by an incredible 10.8 points! In contrast, the men districts beat Hillary Clinton’s margin by an average of only 4.8 points. That’s a pretty stark contrast: Women overperformed Clinton by 6 points more than men! All 13 female candidates beat Clinton’s margin in their districts, while only 17 of the 22 male candidates did. The results are not quite as striking compared with Governor Cooper, yet the trend holds: women surpassed Governor Cooper’s margins in their districts by about 3 points more than men.

25 Reasons to FLIP NC

25 Reasons to FLIP NC

The NC GOP has passed so much extreme legislation since taking control of the NCGA in 2010 that it can be hard to keep track of all of the damage they’ve done to our state. But hope is on the horizon. If Democrats can break the Republican majority in at least one chamber of the NCGA, a new progressive era can begin in North Carolina.

Here are 25 reasons we’re fighting for democracy and a progressive future for North Carolina. Read our full list of 99 Reasons to FLIP NC, and then share yours – there are far more than 99 Reasons to FLIP NC!

99 Reasons to FLIP NC (#s 21-40)

40. Because the Wealthiest North Carolinians Didn’t Need a 29% Income Tax Cut

Over the past five years, Republicans have cut the top income tax rate from 7.75% to 5.5%, a 29 percent cut for the wealthiest North Carolinians, while eliminating the earned-income tax credit (#75) and enacting regressive sales taxes.

39. To Stop the Privatization of Our School System

Over the past seven years, Republicans in the NCGA have taken many steps towards privatizing our school system, including expanding a private school voucher program (in which more than 90% of the schools receiving money were religious schools), funding the rapid growth of charter schools (up 75% since 2010), and requiring mandatory public school takeovers by corporate charters. All of these programs divert resources from traditional public schools, leaving funding for public schools in NC near the worst in the country (#29).

38. To Stop the GOP’s Endless Unconstitutional Legislation

Since gaining supermajorities in both chambers of the NCGA in 2012, Republican lawmakers have passed a continuous stream of unconstitutional legislation, including their monster voter law (#31), racially and partisan gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts (#54), attempts to seize power from the executive branch (#27), and so on. The GOP-controlled legislature’s power grabs have been so extreme that it was even sued by a governor from the majority’s own party in McCrory v. Berger. Exasperatingly, the GOP often benefits from its unconstitutional legislation during the course of the lengthy legal battles required to contest their illegal laws – while taxpayers pay the literal price, footing the bill for tens of millions in legal fees.

37. To Protect Reproductive Choice

Since taking control of the NCGA in 2010, the GOP has passed a long list of restrictions on reproductive choice including severe limits on insurance coverage for abortion (#52), mandatory long waiting periods and restrictions on medication-based abortion (#63). These new laws, along with the fact that 90% of NC counties do not have any facilities that provide abortions, severely limit reproductive choice for many North Carolinians, especially those with limited ability to travel.

36. To Ensure Fair Elections

In the days immediately following Roy Cooper’s election, the GOP-controlled legislature moved to strip the Governor of his authority to appoint a majority on the State Board of Elections – authority that had been in place for nearly 50 years. The NC GOP has passed three different bills with this aim over the past two years, the first two of which were declared unconstitutional, and proposed a Constitutional Amendment for the 2018 ballot, all with the goal of moving authority to appoint election boards from the Governor to the state legislature.

35. To Protect Our Coast

From supporting off-shore drilling (#64), to banning the study of sea-level rise, to overturning a popular local ban on plastic bags in the Outer Banks, to failing to adequately address coastal erosion, the GOP-controlled state legislature has put our coast at risk. This failure to protect our beautiful coast is a tragedy for future generations.

34. To End Extreme Partisan Gerrymandering

In 2011 and again in 2017, NC GOP lawmakers used detailed board of elections data to draw congressional and legislative maps that are among the most politically gerrymandered in the history of the United States. As a result, although NC is roughly evenly divided, Republicans hold a 10-3 advantage in US Congress and supermajorities in both the NC House and NC Senate, allowing the NC GOP to pass extreme and anti-democratic legislation with no concern about the governor’s veto. The only sure way get fair maps in NC is for Democrats to reclaim the majority in at least one chamber of the NCGA for a seat at the table when maps are redrawn following the 2020 Census.

33. To Fully Repeal HB2 and Let NC Cities Write Their Own Labor Laws

In addition to enshrining LGBTQ discrimination in state law, HB2 also restricts municipalities in North Carolina from enacting anti-discrimination policies of any kind, setting a local minimum wage, regulating child labor, or making certain regulations for city workers – in yet another of example of legislative overreach into local affairs by the NC GOP.

32. To Fully Repeal HB2 and End LGBTQ Discrimination

Proposed and signed into law in less than 12 hours, HB2 became widely known for the restrictions on transgender bathroom use that made our state “a pioneer in bigotry”. But its impact is much broader. The bill also bars NC cities and towns from enacting anti-discrimination laws on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, making it legal for private companies throughout the state to fire anyone because they are gay. Full repeal of HB2 is not enough. We need full legal protection from discrimination for LGBTQ North Carolinians across our state.

31. Because the NC GOP Passed the Most Restrictive Voting Law NC since Jim Crow

In 2013, the GOP-controlled legislature passed the “monster voter law,” which cut early voting by a week, eliminated out-of-precinct voting, and required voters to show specific types of photo ID – restrictions that election board data showed would disproportionately affect African Americans and other minorities. In declaring the law unconstitutional, the Federal Appeals Court called it “the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow” and charged that Republican lawmakers had targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

30. To Improve the Health of Pregnant Women and Babies

North Carolina ranks #43 in the country in the fraction of women aged 18-44 who have health insurance, so it may not be surprising to learn that NC women get below-average care during pregnancy and that the health of babies born in NC ranks near the bottom in every category, including #41 in low birthweight, #44 in neonatal mortality, and #43 in infant mortality. The NC GOP’s failure to expand Medicaid (#22) and sabotaging of our health care exchange (#77) has contributed greatly to the poor health and mortality of pregnant women and babies in NC.

29. Because NC Shouldn’t Be Anywhere Near the Bottom in Public School Spending

While education spending in other states has rebounded since the recession, the GOP-controlled legislature has failed to increase spending in NC. In 2016, North Carolina’s per pupil school spending was still below 2008 levels and ranked 45th in the country, significantly below much poorer states like South Carolina, Kentucky and Louisiana. According to one recent study (third link), North Carolina’s public schools have dropped from the Top 20 in the county to 40th due largely to insufficient funding.

28. To Decriminalize Marijuana

Despite 80% support by North Carolinians for medicinal use and 45% for recreational use, NC remains one of 20 states that totally restricts the use of marijuana. Democratic bills introduced in the 2017-18 legislative session would decriminalize possession for personal use, but the NC GOP has completely blocked these bills. Given the strong racial bias in the enforcement of drug laws, decriminalizing marijuana would be a major step towards racial justice in NC.

27. To Protect the Separation of Powers

Having created legislative maps that are extremely gerrymandered in its favor, the Republican legislature moved to weaken the executive and judicial branches of government and concentrate more power in the legislative branch. Their power grab has included: attempting to take over the state board of elections (#35), creating new obstacles to the Governor’s appointment power to fill positions in the Executive Branch, forming unconstitutional commissions to manage pollution from coal plants and fracking (#38), redrawing judicial maps (#78), and interfering with judicial elections. We need to protect the basic checks and balances on our state government.

26. To Make Smart Public Investments for a Growing State

Since taking over the NCGA in 2010, Republican legislators have sharply reduced government spending on everything from schools to infrastructure, failing to make the investments necessary for the next generation of North Carolinians. State spending as a fraction of total personal income has declined over 20% since 2008 as a result of continued tax cuts that have largely benefited corporations and the wealthy. It’s time to invest in North Carolina’s future.

25. Because Voter ID Has Nothing to Do with Voter Fraud

The Republican Party has created and promoted a false narrative about widespread voter fraud to stoke fear and galvanize support for voter ID while hiding their true intent: to disenfranchise African-American, poor, and elderly voters. After their 2013 monster voter law (#31) was declared unconstitutional due to the precision with which it targeted African-American voters, the NC GOP placed a Voter ID Constitutional Amendment on the ballot this November. If it passes, North Carolina will join Mississippi as the only states to enshrine this odious form of systematic disenfranchisement in their constitutions.

24. To End NCGA Restrictions on Local Decision Making

Because local governments in North Carolina ultimately get much of their authority from the state, the GOP has been able to use its unchecked power at the state level to intervene in local affairs in myriad ways, placing restrictions on anti-discrimination (#33), minimum-wage (#32), environmental (#35), natural-resource (#42), housing (#49), education, and election laws.

23. To Restore Progressive Taxation

Over the past six years, Republicans have used their supermajorities in the NCGA to sharply cut taxes for the rich at the expense of everyone else. Regressive changes include reducing the corporate tax rate to the lowest in the country (#72), repealing the estate tax (#93), cutting the top income tax rate by almost 30 percent (#40), eliminating the earned income tax credit (#76), and expanding sales taxes to services like car repair that are disproportionately used by the poor. Taken as a whole, the changes have left the total tax bill of low- and middle-income households almost unchanged, while dramatically reducing the taxes paid by the top 1%.

22. For Medicaid Expansion

The failure to expand Medicaid under the ACA is one of the most self-defeating and harmful policies inflicted by the GOP-controlled state legislature on the people of North Carolina. Not only would Medicaid expansion provide health insurance for nearly 500,000 low-income households and their children – saving more than a thousand lives per year – it would also create an additional 35,000 jobs (including a large number of middle- and high-wage jobs in the health care sector) and expand NC’s economy by over $2 billion. The resulting increase in tax revenues would be more than enough to offset the state’s expenses, with the federal government covering 90% of the cost of Medicaid expansion. The lack of insurance coverage for the working poor in NC has greatly exacerbated the opioid crisis (#81), led to higher costs in NC’s health insurance exchange (#77) and contributing to extremely poor outcomes for pregnant women and babies in NC (#30). It’s this simple: expanding Medicaid would save thousands of lives and improve life for millions of North Carolinians.

21. For Transparency in Government

Over the past several years, the GOP-controlled NCGA has increasingly moved to using secretive practices for writing and passing extreme legislation. Bills – most famously HB2 (#33) – are often written behind closed doors and then passed within hours, with no time for public comment or for lawmakers to even read the final bill. In 2018, the entire state budget was written in secret by the GOP and passed without allowing any amendments or debate. It’s time to restore transparency and thoughtful debate and deliberation to the NCGA.

Meet a FLIPster: Dana Carvalho

Dana, a Chatham County resident who has her own line of jewelry, has canvassed with us five times in Wake County. She especially loves it when she has conversations with people who are surprised and thrilled to learn that their district is flippable. Her history of political action goes back to her Vietnam protesting days. Today, she volunteers with a pro-choice advocacy group in addition to FLIP NC.

Here, a Q&A with Dana. And be sure to join her at one of our remaining canvasses in flippable Wake County! Last call for voter outreach!

Meet a FLIPster: Heidi Colton

Originally from Philadelphia, Heidi lives in NC-H36, one of the flippable Wake County districts where FLIP NC canvasses. She has knocked doors with us at least eight times! Her husband, Josh, sometimes canvasses, too. The couple has three daughters and loves to see live music when they aren’t acting as “human Ubers” for their girls.

The 2016 election marked the first time Heidi got involved with voter outreach. By day, she works in biotech research and development.

Here, a Q&A with Heidi. And be sure to join her at one of our remaining canvasses in flippable Wake County! With less than two weeks until the polls close, it’s GOTV go time!

Meet a FLIPster: Matt & Jake Schwartz

Today, we’re featuring two of our youngest canvassers! Matt and Jake are twin brothers from Chapel Hill who are sophomores at Durham Academy. Theirs is a family that has always talked openly about current events – Jake says he has been incredibly interested in politics since age 11.

In their free time, Matt is a saxophonist for the jazz band at DA. Jake plays Ultimate Frisbee for the school and enjoys club Frisbee in the summer.

Because they can’t drive yet, the brothers usually get a ride from their father to our canvasses. Then, they split up and knock doors with a new canvassing partner each time.

Read this fascinating Q&A with the Schwartz brothers – sure to inspire you to get involved with FLIP NC in these final days before the election!

Meet a FLIPster: Lisa Reiter

She hasn’t always been politically active – after living in the D.C. area for four years, she grew tired of all of the political conversations. But Lisa finds that when the conversations are about true activation – and action – instead of gossip and frustration around our state of affairs, she’s all in.

Read this Q&A with Lisa, and make plans to join her at an upcoming canvass. We’re knocking doors every Saturday and Sunday until the election!

Meet a FLIPster: Francis Ferrell

Francis, a resident (and native) of Durham, is married to our co-founder, Briana Brough. They have two young sons. By day, Francis works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a park ranger at Falls Lake.

“My parents were the prototypical 1970s hippies who would bring my siblings and me to peace marches,” he says, “but I would not consider myself to have been ‘politically activated’ until I got involved with FLIP NC.” Now, he’s taking Teddy Roosevelt’s advice, as you’ll read below, to not “fritter away” his time.

Here, a Q&A with Francis. And be sure to join him at one of our upcoming canvasses!

Meet a FLIPster: Laura Ballance

You’ve heard us say that FLIPsters are rock stars – our all-volunteer organization depends on lots of good people lending a hand, making a financial contribution, and participating in our democracy. Today’s featured FLIPster is a literal rock star, though!

Laura is the bassist for indie rock band Superchunk. (If you haven’t already, listen to “What a Time to Be Alive,” Superchunk’s musical response to the 2016 election and all that has happened since.) She also runs Durham’s Merge Records, home to artists like Arcade Fire and She & Him.

Laura still finds time for activism, volunteering with multiple organizations. She had never canvassed before discovering FLIP NC. She’s knocked doors with us in Wake County on three occasions. 

Here, a Q&A with Laura.