(WGHP) — There may not be any map of electoral districts that will satisfy everyone. What we do know, though, is that the maps North Carolina has had recently upset a lot of people.
“Typically, you only redistrict every ten years. But due to litigation, in ten years, we’ve had three iterations. My district has changed three times,” said North Carolina state representative Jon Hardister, who is from Guilford County.
Hardister is also on the committee in the state legislature that is redrawing maps based on the 2020 census as the state does every ten years. The last version of the maps the state had were thrown out by a judge who said they were unfair to African-American voters and, the NAACP filed a lawsuit on the latest rendition of the state’s electoral maps before they were even adopted by the general assembly.
“Once again, state redistricting leaders have failed North Carolinians by redrawing voting districts for political gain and depriving voters of color their constitutional rights to fair political representation,” said Allison Riggs of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in a statement put out by the group.
Although Republicans, by virtue of their majorities in the North Carolina House and Senate, are in charge of the latest version of the maps, their party isn’t alone in the “art” of gerrymandering.
“This happens on both sides of the aisle,” notes Duke University mathematician, Jonathan Mattingly, who has been studying the metrics of redistricting. “Both parties do this across the country. I would like us as a country to get out of the gerrymandering business. I would think that would be great for how we feel about our democracy.”
North Carolina Republicans felt they were doing just that.
“We did not look at racial data. We did not look at political data,” Hardister said.
Instead, they looked at where voters lived and tried to break them into electoral districts that had a roughly equal number of voters and kept both counties and municipalities intact as much as they could. Those were the mandates of the process, Hardister says.
The fact that Black voters are clustered more heavily in urban areas is the reason that these districts favor Republicans, Hardister explains.
“It’s true that there is self-sorting and that voters do tend to deliver in certain geographies. But it’s very possible to draw a map that respects municipal boundaries and also produces a fairer outcome,” said Asher Hildebrand, who teaches politics and policy analysis at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy.
Hildebrand points out that the state is about as close to a 50/50 state as you can get when it comes to Democrat and Republican voters, but the districts the Republicans drew are, in his estimation, likely to elect as many as 10 Republicans to only 4 Democrats to the US House of Representatives.
Despite their effort to avoid splitting counties into different districts, in the latest map, the committee split Guilford County into three different congressional districts. But Hardister says there is an advantage there as well.
“The counties around Guilford have smaller populations, so I wasn’t really surprised to see that, but I think the advantage is if the county is split three ways, you have three representatives representing the county,” he said.
But Duke’s Asher says the committee developed but didn’t choose options that would better represent the way the state’s voters cast their ballots.
“The discouraging thing here (in North Carolina) is that despite a decade of unprecedented engagement and advocacy in supportive of fairer process and fairer maps, it feels right now like we’re kind of right back where we started a decade ago,” Hildebrand said.
See more on this subject in this edition of the Buckley Report.