North Carolina
Congressional BoundariesDrawn by legislature
State BoundariesDrawn by legislature
Governor's PartyDemocratic
Legislative PartyRepublican

Census-related Redistricting Timeline Delays

Congressional

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Guarded

State Legislative

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Guarded

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Process

State Legislature

North Carolina's state legislative and congressional districts are drawn by the state Legislature by ordinary statute. Unlike most states, the resulting plans are not subject to the Governor's veto.

Criteria

In addition to the federal requirements of one person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act, North Carolina’s state constitution (Art. II §§ 3, 5) requires that state legislative and congressional districts be contiguous and avoid county splits. In the last cycle, the legislative redistricting committees adopted additional criteria for both state legislative and congressional redistricting, requiring that they be compact and avoid pairing incumbents. While the use of partisan data is permitted, the use of racial data is prohibited. The state Supreme Court also laid out a detailed process for keeping counties whole in Stephenson v. Bartlett. In interpreting the “Whole County Provisions,” this process has created a requirement for “county groupings” in the state legislative process. As part of this decision, the state Supreme Court held that communities of interest should be considered for state legislative districts.

Public Input

While North Carolina law does not require public hearings, the joint legislative committee for redistricting held numerous hearings from April to July 2011. Additional rounds of public hearings took place in 2017 and 2019, as legislators repeatedly drew new maps following litigation. It is likely that there will be similar opportunities for public input in 2021.

2011 Cycle

In the 2011 redistricting cycle, North Carolina faced a number of legal challenges:

  • A Supreme Court decision (Rucho v. Common Cause) left the current congressional map in place and set a precedent against federal intervention in partisan gerrymandering.
  • A case in state court (Common Cause v. Lewis), concerning state legislative districts, ruled that 77 state legislative districts were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. Following a remedial redistricting process, the Court accepted the General Assembly's remedial maps. The process likely included inherent Republican bias, which we explained in an amicus brief. The plaintiffs filed a petition for expedited discretionary review, but it was denied by the state Supreme Court. Afterward, the plaintiffs elected not to appeal the case, leaving the remedial maps intact for 2020. Lastly, this case also gave rise to questions over the confidentiality of the files of Dr. Thomas Hofeller, a Republican political strategist known for his involvement in gerrymandering, and the Court lifted the confidentiality order on these files in many states on Nov. 4, 2019. These files also laid the groundwork for the removal of the citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
  • Another case was brought in state court (Harper v. Lewis) challenging the congressional map under the state constitution, relying largely upon the extensive federal record from Rucho v. Common Cause. Using Common Cause v. Lewis as precedent, the court issued a preliminary injunction, preventing the map from being used in 2020, and strongly suggested that the legislators redraw the maps to avoid delays to the congressional candidate filing period. The General Assembly proactively drew a remedial map, which the Harper plaintiffs challenged. Due to the time constraint of the 2020 primary, however, the NC Superior Court upheld the map, recognizing that the districts and the process were not perfect. Our own analysis noted the partial successes and lessons arising from the congressional redraw.

Issues

Pitfalls

North Carolina is one of the most extremely gerrymandered states in the nation and has been home to a decade’s worth of redistricting litigation. Although current congressional and state legislative maps have been redrawn a number of times, a pro-Republican bias remains. Before 2010, the Congressional map had a strong pro-Democratic bias. Following two 2019 state court decisions based on the state constitution, the Legislature redrew parts of the state legislative maps as well as the entire congressional map ahead of the 2020 elections.

Congressional Seats

Following the 2020 Census apportionment results, North Carolina gained one congressional seat.

Potential Reform

The Fair Maps Act, H437, is currently in front of the Legislature. The proposed constitutional amendment would create an independent redistricting process, taking power away from the General Assembly and putting it in the hands of a citizens commission.

In the last legislative session, six different bills were introduced to change the redistricting process. Of these, H69 would set up an independent advisory commission, public hearings, and prohibit partisan bias in maps. H140, on the other hand, lacks the hallmarks of a true redistricting reform bill, as noted by our analysis, and includes a number of problematic provisions. H648 would have a commission appoint a special master who would draw the lines, but it lacked meaningful public input or transparency The other bills all proposed some form of independent redistricting commission, but lacked the bipartisan support of H69 and H140. These bills failed to pass through the Legislature before it adjourned in June.

Actions

Partner with Common Cause North Carolina to take specific actions against gerrymandering and work with others toward redistricting reform.

In 2021, participate in the Legislature’s public input process.

  • Obtain North Carolina redistricting data from OpenPrecincts.
  • Start to plan out what defines your community – whether it’s a shared economic interest, school districts, or other social or other cultural, historical, or economic interests – and how that can be represented on a map. This will come in handy once the Legislature starts collecting feedback.
  • Use software tools such as Dave's Redistricting App and Districtr to draw district maps showing either (a) what a fair map would look like, or (b) where the community you believe should be better represented is located.

Contacts

Southern Coalition for Social Justice

Professor Jonathan Mattingly, Quantifying Gerrymandering at Duke

End Gerrymandering Now (Common Cause)

NC Coalition for Lobbying & Government Reform

League of Women Voters of North Carolina

Fair Districts NC

Sources

All About Redistricting

NCSL

Ballotpedia