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North Carolina redistricting is underway. Here's what you should know

Election worker assisting voters with curbside voting
Election worker assisting voters with curbside voting

North Carolina lawmakers are currently drawing maps for the state’s congressional districts as well as the state House and Senate.

Who is in charge of drawing the legislative maps in North Carolina?

While some states like California have shifted to an independent commission to draw districts, mapmaking power in North Carolina lies with the legislature. The governor does not have a veto.

Democrats were in charge of the legislature for decades and drew maps that favored them. Republicans won legislative majorities in 2010 under those Democratic maps. They then draw new maps after the 2010 census that helped solidify their power.

Democrats today have called for an independent commission to draw maps, but Republicans have so far refused.

North Carolina was one of the most litigated states over the GOP’s 2010 maps. Is that going to change?

Probably not.

There are no final maps yet, but some Democratic-aligned groups have indicated they will sue over the new maps.

What does the state’s current congressional map look like? And how we did we get there?

North Carolina currently has 13 U.S. House seats. For much of the last decade, the GOP drew a congressional map that gave Republicans a 10-3 advantage.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Cooper vs. Harris that the GOP’s 2011 map was an unconstitutional gerrymander based on race. N.C. Republicans made a new map that also gave them a 10-3 advantage, and that prompted more litigation.

In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled in Rucho vs. Common Cause that gerrymandering based on political party was not unconstitutional — a decision that allowed the state’s most recent map to remain.

But later that year, a three-judge panel in state court overturned the state’s 10-3 congressional map as well as the state’s House and Senate maps. The GOP legislature drew a new map that allowed Democrats to pick up seats in the Triad and Triangle. The GOP’s advantage was reduced to 8-5.

For the 2021 redistricting cycle, Republicans have said they won’t use data based on race or political party when drawing new maps.

The new congressional map allowed Democrats to win two seats, cutting the GOP advantage to 8-5.

Because of the state’s population growth, North Carolina is getting a 14th seat in Congress.

Do we know where that seat will be drawn?

There are no maps that have been officially debated yet. But early indications are that the 14th seat may be west of Charlotte. That would allow state House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican, to run for Congress.

A proposed map by GOP State Sen. Warren Daniel, who co-chairs the redistricting committee, places that 14th seat in Gaston, Cleveland and Rutherford counties and part of Mecklenburg County.

What else do we know about that map?

Locally, the big news is that it would put Mecklenburg County into three congressional districts. Most of the city of Charlotte would be in the Democratic 12th District. Part of southern Mecklenburg County would be in the 9th District. And the Lake Norman towns and parts of west Mecklenburg County would go into the new 14th District. Currently, Mecklenburg is in the 9th and 12th districts.

Democrats want Mecklenburg to be split into only two districts like it is now. If that happens, they would have a chance of winning another seat.

The Daniel map gives Republicans the advantage in 10 or 11 of the proposed seats.

But Republican state Sen. Ralph Hise has drawn a map that splits Mecklenburg County into four districts. Under that map, Democrats wouldn’t be favored in any Mecklenburg seat.

What about state legislative districts?

The legislature is also drawing state House and Senate districts.

Because of a 2010 North Carolina Supreme Court ruling, counties can only be split as little as possible. That means the first step is to create what are known as “county clusters” – groups of counties that are grouped together for state Senate and House seats.

Mecklenburg County has five state Senate seats today. Because of population growth, it’s getting a part of a sixth seat. A group of nonpartisan researchers and professors led by Duke University created county cluster maps that Republican legislators are using. Under those maps, Mecklenburg County is paired with Iredell County for that partial sixth seat.

Mecklenburg is also getting an additional state House seat, bringing the number of state House members from 12 to 13.

Copyright 2021 WFAE