What's Old Is New: Redistricting Will Again Be North Carolina's Big Issue In 2021

Jan 4, 2021

The North Carolina General Assembly reconvenes next week.  After all the campaign rhetoric and money of 2020, the partisan makeup of Raleigh will still be the same.  And the major issue that lawmakers will take up in 2021 will be the same one that seemingly never left the headlines all last decade - redistricting.

Western Carolina University political scientist Dr. Chris Cooper expects the partisan battle over redistricting for Congressional and General Assembly elections to be bitter yet again, and ultimately end in litigation, just like the prior decade.  He notes one new wrinkle for 2021 is that North Carolina is likely to get another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives due to population growth.  That would bring the number of seats for the state to 14, and Cooper says it's likely the new seat will be centered in the Triangle region. 

Wherever the 14th is located, it will impact how the lines for the rest of the state are drawn, including the 11th district in Western North Carolina.  The 2020 election saw the 11th comprising of all of the westernmost portion of North Carolina for the first time in a decade.  Previously, the city of Asheville and Buncombe County were split between the 10th and 11th districts, a move that gave Republicans who drew the map a clear political advantage and led to then Democratic-Congressman Heath Shuler's retirement after three terms in 2012.  But even with the new map keeping the Democratic strongholds together in one district, Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn won the 11th in 2020 almost as easily as his GOP predecessor Mark Meadows did under the old district lines.

Dr. Cooper spoke with BPR's Matt Bush about the process of redistricting, it's bitter and ironic history in North Carolina, and what to expect as the year unfolds.  You can listen to the whole interview above.