North Carolina Republicans’ Gerrymandered Map Could Flip at Least Three House Seats


Republicans in North Carolina approved a heavily gerrymandered congressional map on Wednesday that is likely to knock out about half of the Democrats representing the state in the House of Representatives. It could result in as much as an 11-3 advantage for Republicans.

The State House, controlled by a Republican supermajority, voted for the new lines a day after the State Senate approved them. Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, cannot veto redistricting legislation.

The map creates 10 solidly Republican districts, three solidly Democratic districts and one competitive district. Currently, under the lines drawn by a court for the 2022 election, each party holds seven seats.

The new lines ensure Republican dominance in a state that, while leaning red, is closely divided. President Donald J. Trump won it by just over a percentage point in 2020, and Republicans won the last two Senate elections by two and three points.

The Democratic incumbents who have been essentially drawn off the map are Representatives Jeff Jackson in the Charlotte area, Kathy Manning in the Greensboro area and Wiley Nickel in the Raleigh area. A seat held by a fourth Democrat, Representative Don Davis, is expected to be competitive.

“If either of these maps become final, it means I’m toast in Congress,” Mr. Jackson said in a video on X last week after the release of two draft maps, one of which became the final product. “This is the majority party in the state legislature in North Carolina basically saying, ‘We want another member of our party in Congress, so we’re going to redraw the map to take out Jeff.’”

On Thursday, he announced that he would run for attorney general of North Carolina “to fight political corruption,” a label he applied to the gerrymandered maps.

Mr. Nickel, who won a close race last year, was also defiant.

“I don’t want to give these maps credibility by announcing a run in any of these gerrymandered districts,” he said on X. “The maps are an extreme partisan gerrymander by Republican legislators that totally screw North Carolina voters. It’s time to sue the bastards.”

Ms. Manning did not announce specific plans but said she was “not willing to let these partisan maps take away my constituents’ right to representation.” She criticized Republicans for diluting voters in Guilford County, which includes Greensboro, by dividing them among three districts that also include distant parts of the state.

Republicans openly acknowledged the advantage they were drawing for themselves. “There’s no doubt that the congressional map that’s before you today has a lean towards Republicans,” State Representative Destin Hall, the chairman of the redistricting committee, said on the floor, while adding that legislators had “complied with the law in every way.” (Mr. Hall did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Kareem Crayton, the senior director for voting and representation at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the map was “among the most radical examples of gerrymandering that we’ve seen certainly this cycle.”

The new map and the events that led to it illustrate both the power of gerrymandering to render voters’ preferences electorally irrelevant, and the extent to which control of the House is being determined by courts’ interpretation of what lines are permissible.

North Carolina has long been one of the most gerrymandered states in the country, as well as the subject of years of legal battles. Last year, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that a previous gerrymandered map was illegal, and court-drawn lines were used in the midterm elections, producing more competitive districts and, ultimately, an evenly divided congressional delegation.

But something else also happened in the midterms: A Republican won a seat on the state Supreme Court, flipping it from a Democratic to a Republican majority. Though none of the facts had changed except the composition of the court, the justices promptly threw out the 2022 ruling, opening the door for Republican legislators to restore their party’s advantage.

In several other states, the courts are also prevailing.

In Wisconsin, where voters recently elected a liberal justice, the state Supreme Court is widely expected to rule against an existing Republican gerrymander. In Alabama, a court ordered a map this month that includes two districts, instead of one, where Black voters have or are close to a majority. That change, stemming from a United States Supreme Court decision earlier this year, will most likely result in one more Democratic representative.

The same Supreme Court ruling could lead to a new majority-Black district in Louisiana, though that is tied up in another lawsuit. Separately, a contentious redistricting process is on the table in New York.

Mr. Crayton said lawyers would need more time to analyze the new North Carolina map and the drawing process to determine whether there were viable legal or constitutional arguments against it, given that the current North Carolina Supreme Court has shown it is not receptive to complaints against partisan gerrymandering.

Some previous maps “basically took a hatchet job to the entirety of the state,” he said, but this time, Republican legislators appear to have been “much more targeted.” For example, they chose not to combine the districts of two Black Democrats, Mr. Davis and Valerie Foushee, which a different draft map would have done.

“They did not take the most blatantly problematic maps as the ones that they would vote into law,” he said, “but that doesn’t solve all the questions as to whether they adopted legal maps.”


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