Redistricting Analysis

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.

The Ever-Changing Maps: Wake and Mecklenburg Edition

As the candidate filing period comes to an end and 2018 election campaigns begin in earnest, the NC House maps in Wake and Mecklenburg counties are still being contested in court for yet another election cycle.

Read on for a quick summary of the twists and turns in the legal case, what the NC House maps are likely to look like for 2018, and what this means for Democrats’ chances to break the supermajority or, better yet, to take back the NC House altogether in 2018.

Into the Weeds with the Special Master

This post is for those who would like to get a little more into the weeds about what the Federal Court’s instructions given yesterday to the Special Master mean for Democrats' chances to break the supermajority in the NC House in 2018. The great news is that the maps should get much better for Democrats – relative to the maps proposed by the GOP – for at least three reasons.

Coloring Outside the Lines

One of the most striking features of the NC GOP's proposed redistricting plan is their attempt to use the court-ordered redrawing of the gerrymandered districts as a ploy to re-draw much of the legislative map in its favor. By re-configuring county groupings and then redrawing the districts within them, they have reached far beyond the gerrymandered districts and redrawn two-thirds of the NC House map under the guise of fixing the current split counties THEY CREATED.

The New GOP Maps Are Out and They’re Worse Than Ever

Less than 36 hours before the ONLY opportunity for public comment on the proposed new legislative maps, the NC GOP finally released the correlating election data. We see why they don’t want the public to have time to see and understand these new maps. We compared the proposed maps to the current, unconstitutional ones: Of the sixteen GOP-held NC House districts FLIP NC had identified as the most "flippable" based on past election results, ELEVEN have been slanted more heavily for the GOP, while ONLY TWO were drawn more favorably for Democrats.