RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – North Carolinians have their electoral maps for 2022.
The North Carolina Supreme Court late Wednesday night upheld the three maps approved earlier in the day by a trial court in Wake County, allowing new districts for Congress and the state House and Senate to be in place for candidates to resume filing for office at 8 a.m. Thursday.
The justices denied three appeals that were filed by the 5 p.m. deadline Wednesday after a Republican-majority, 3-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court unanimously threw out a remedial congressional map drawn by the General Assembly but kept the electoral districts for the state House and state Senate.
Three special masters chosen by that court, all former judges, provided a “new” map for the state’s 14 congressional districts while ruling that the remedial maps for state Senate and House districts, drawn last week by the General Assembly, met the requirements for fairness set forth earlier this month by the NC Supreme Court.
But by mid-afternoon state House Speaker Tim Moore, a named defendant, and plaintiffs the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters and Common Cause said they were appealing to the state Supreme Court.
Moore called the removal of the congressional map “nothing short of egregious.
“The trial court’s decision to impose a map drawn by anyone other than the legislature is simply unconstitutional and an an affront to every North Carolina voter whose representation would be determined by unelected partisan activists,” he said.
“Let me be clear: This court has effectively taken a hammer to our state constitution and the rule of law, and I will appeal this ruling with respect to the congressional map immediately on behalf of the voters.”
Later NCLC Executive Director Carrie Clark issued her own statement that addressed not only a concern about the state Senate map but also their 1-year affect as specified by the trial court.
“In our appeal of the Senate map, we have again requested that the Supreme Court order any approved state legislative maps to be used for the duration of the decade in compliance with our constitution’s ban on mid-decade redraws,” she said.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, on behalf of plaintiff Common Cause NC, later filed its appeal based on the legislative maps as being “discriminatory.”
“The General Assembly must be held accountable to our state’s Constitution and fundamental freedoms, instead of maintaining their power at the expense of Black residents in Eastern North Carolina,” Hilary Harris Klein, senior counsel for Voting Rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said in a statement. “We appreciate the bipartisan efforts of the trial court and Special Masters to remedy illegalities in the Congressional map, but justice that is partial is no justice at all.”
What happened with the maps
The General Assembly last week submitted remedial maps – for the 14 congressional districts plus the state House and the state Senate – which were followed by proposals from plaintiffs. NCLCV suggested new maps of its own for all three, and Common Cause suggested a new congressional map. Harper et al filed briefs to express their concerns.
The special masters – and the court – in their decision appeared to agree with Moore’s argument, saying that responsibility to draw maps falls to the General Assembly and that “we conclude that the appropriate remedy is to modify the Legislative Remedial Congressional Plan to bring it into compliance with the Supreme Court’s order.”
At least one expert on redistricting, Asher Hilldebrand, a former Democratic operative on the faculty at Duke University, posted on social media that he thinks this new congressional map “is definitely fairer.”
“The new 14th is more Dem than I initially thought,” he posted on Twitter, “and the new 7th is more Republican (even more so than the new 9th). This is likely a 7/6/1 map in 2022, which is the only year that matters, it seems.”
Nathaniel Rakich of fivethirtyeight.com, an election data analysis site, said this is “the fairest map North Carolina has had in a long time.” He rated the districts as seven leaning Republican, six leaning Democrat and one “purple” — the new third district of south Wake and Johnston and parts of Harnett and Wayne counties.
More dramatic changes
The interim congressional map includes a dramatic change again for the 6th Congressional District, which surrounds Greensboro and Winston-Salem, and creates a much more compact new 14th District west of Charlotte.
All of Guilford and Rockingham counties and portion of Forsyth County around Winston-Salem would be combined with almost all of Caswell County to form the 6th District, where Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) is the incumbent.
The 5th District includes the rest of Forsyth County and almost all of Wilkes County along with all of Davie, Stokes, Surry, Alleghany, Watauga, Avery, Caldwell and Mitchell counties. Current 5th District Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) and 13th District Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) are both incumbents there, but Budd is running for the about-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat.
Alamance County would be combined with Orange, Person, Durham and Granville counties and a drop of Caswell County in the 4th District, where incumbent Rep. David Price (D-Durham) is retiring.
Randolph County would be in the 9th District, along with Chatham, Lee, Moore and Hoke counties and pieces of Harnett, Richmond and Cumberland counties. There would be no established incumbent there, but former Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican from Harnett County, had announced her candidacy in whatever district that includes her home.
Davidson County would be grouped in the 8th District with all of Rowan, Stanly, Montgomery, Union and Anson counties and parts of Cabarrus and Richmond counties. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord) has filed to run for re-election, but it’s unclear whether he resides in this district, although that’s not required.
Mecklenburg County would be divided in the north with a slice of Cabarrus to form the 12th District, where Rep. Alma Adams (D-Charlotte) would be the incumbent unless Hudson runs in that district. The southern part of Mecklenburg is combined with eastern Gaston County, and Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte) would be the incumbent, although he has suggested he would run in the counties east of Mecklenburg.
Northern Wake County would be the 2nd District, where Rep. Deborah Ross (D-Raleigh) is the incumbent, and the 3rd District has no incumbent and may be the choice of Ellmers.
One odd situation is the 10th District, which is comprised of all of Iredell, Alexander, Catawba, Cleveland, Lincoln and Burke counties, the western portion of Gaston, the eastern portion of Rutherford and a small piece of Wilkes County.
Powerful Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-Lincoln) would be the incumbent here, but Moore had said he would consider running, and Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-Hendersonville) had announced he would leave his 11th District and run in this area.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-Wilson) is retiring in the 1st District, and Rep. David Rouzer (R-New Hanover) is the incumbent in the 3rd. Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville) could fall in either the 1st or 3rd districts, because Pitts County, his home, would be divided between the two.
The trial court chose those three judges — Robert Orr, Thomas Ross and Robert Edwards Jr. — to serve as special masters and in a separate ruling Wednesday rejected a motion by the plaintiffs from the General Assembly to have two of their approved assistants, Thomas Wang of Princeton University and Tyler Jarvisof Brigham Young, and removed because of what it alleged was ex parte communications.
State maps don’t please all
Gov. Roy Cooper in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, came out strongly opposed to the state Senate map.
“Today’s decision allows a blatantly unfair and unconstitutional State Senate map that may have been the worst of the bunch,” he said. “That is bad for North Carolina because it strips voters of their voice in our democracy.
“Our elections should not go forward until we have fair, constitutional maps.”
The map passed the Senate on a party-line vote, and a variety of amendments where tabled. State Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro), who submitted two of those amendments, said on his Twitter account Wednesday that he agreed with Cooper.
“The State Senate map infringes upon the right of the people to choose their representation, which is why I voted NO when these maps were before the Senate.”
State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) was one of five members of the House to vote against its map, and she said Wednesday that she hoped the courts would sort out areas around Wayne County that she thought were bad “clusters.”
State Leader Phil Berger in a released statement: “The General Assembly’s remedial legislative map met all of the court-mandated tests and were constitutionally compliant. A bipartisan panel of Special Masters affirmed that. We’re thankful for the trial court’s ruling today. We disagree with the interim Congressional map imposed by the Special Masters and are seeking a stay of that map, however, it’s time to move on and allow the filing period to begin tomorrow morning.”
Special masters’ recommendation on NC electoral maps by FOX8 on Scribd
How we got here
The 3-judge panel in January had found that legislators used extreme partisan gerrymandering to draw maps lawmakers approved in November, but the judges ruled that there was no constitutional path to changing them.
The Supreme Court, in a 4-3 vote, on Feb. 4 overruled the trial court in what is being called Harper v. Hall and instructed the General Assembly to redraw and submit maps. It also set the schedule for this process and established the special masters.
Candidate filing, which began in December but was halted after about 24 hours, is scheduled to resume at 8 a.m. Thursday. Many candidates for local races already had filed, but the moving district lines have paused the formal paperwork from candidates for Congress and the General Assembly. The new filing period extends until noon on March 4.
All of that could change, however, if the Supreme Court were to take an appeal and need more time to consider those arguments. The Primary Election is schedule for May 17.
Candidate filing scheduled
All of this will have elections offices scurrying to be sure that systems are in place when candidates start to submit paperwork Thursday morning. There are numerous candidates who filed in congressional districts that in fact may be totally different.
Congressional candidates must file at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh, and they don’t have to live in a district to run there. State legislative candidates, however, are required to have established residency – the length varies – to serve in the state House or state Senate.
All local candidates file in local dozens of local elections at their area offices. You can imagine how much work there is for elections officials to be prepared, from computer systems to manpower.
“State Board IT and data staff are working on an application that can be used by the county boards of elections, candidates and the public to see which district each candidate lives in and is eligible to file in,” Patrick Gannon, public information director for the NC Board of Elections, wrote in an emailed response to questions from WGHP. “State Board staff will work as late as necessary to make sure we are prepared for filing to resume at 8 a.m. Thursday.”
Gannon referred questions about what would happen with candidates who previously had filed to a list of 11 reminders that the NCBOE had posted on its website.
That includes instruction der that “any candidate who filed in December 2021 and had their notice of candidacy accepted by the board of elections does not need to re-file if they still wish to run for the same office and district (if applicable).”