North Carolina deserves a fair, inclusive, timely, and transparent process this redistricting cycle.
NC Maps are being redrawn in 2023
On Monday, September 19, 2023, the North Carolina General Assembly announced three public comment hearings for the upcoming congressional and state map redrawing process.
Traditionally, district maps are only drawn once every decade, but due to ongoing battles between North Carolina courts and power-hungry lawmakers dependent on gerrymandering, this will be the third time state and congressional maps will be redrawn in the past three years.
In previous map drawing sessions, the North Carolina General Assembly offered dozens of public comment hearings across the state, including ways for community members to submit their comments digitally. This year, there is a dramatic shift in how and where meetings will occur.
How can you make your voice heard?
As of Sept. 21, the General Assembly has only announced three public comment sessions, with a virtual online submission option offered for a short portion of time. No potential maps or redistricting criteria have been released.
Redistricting in NOrth Carolina
Redistricting is the process in which voting maps are re-drawn, once every decade following the release of a U.S. Census and to account for population changes.
When a state redistricts, officials decide which communities are in the same district and share representation in federal and state elections. These maps directly influence how resources for roads, schools, and healthcare are distributed to North Carolina communities for the next ten years.
Accounting for state-level population changes is essential to our democracy because it upholds the principle of equal representation. Sometimes referred to as “one person, one vote,” equal representation means districts must have the same number of residents to ensure each person gets the same sized slice of the political pie. For example, if District A has 10 residents and District B has 20, a District A resident has twice the voting strength for that General Assembly, School Board, or other elected office.
Who is in charge of redistricting?
In North Carolina, redistricting happens on the local, state, and federal levels — anywhere that candidates file and elections happen.
On the local level, town or city councils, boards of county commissioners, and boards of education draw their own districts, with the help of city or county attorneys (or sometimes outside attorneys or redistricting experts). The North Carolina General Assembly draws three districts: the North Carolina delegation to the US House of Representatives (otherwise known as Congressional Districts), and their own State Districts for the NC Senate & NC House. These maps are NOT subject to the Governor’s veto.
Historically, North Carolina’s state and local governments have not always led a fair, open, timely, and transparent redistricting process, which makes community organizing and advocacy essential.
What is a Community of Interest?
A community of interest is a neighborhood, community, or group of people who have common policy concerns and would benefit from being maintained in a single district.
Another way of understanding a community of interest is that it is simply a way for a community to talk about what makes it unique when compared to surrounding communities, as defined by the local community members.
Keeping communities of interest together is an important principle in redistricting. It can be especially helpful to communities that have been traditionally left out of the political process. Community members can define their communities by telling their stories and describing concerns to policy makers. Examples include community members working to repair their area after a natural disaster or a neighborhood organizing to have a high school built closer to them.
When District Lines Become Power Lines
Gerrymandering is when officials use their power in redistricting to manipulate voting maps and give their political party an unfair advantage; in other words, it’s when politicians draw themselves into power.
Voters in states where the legislature is solely responsible for drawing voting maps are vulnerable to gerrymandered maps. The risk is even greater when one party controls the process and seeks to reduce the competitiveness of elections.
In their pursuit of power, politicians who gerrymander undermine the will of the people and enable elected officials to be unresponsive representatives. They can carefully choose which apartment buildings, houses, and street blocks they represent to make sure districts have more of their party’s voters. They can also strategically draw maps with “other” voters spread across several districts, diluting their voting strength. Gerrymandering allows politicians to stifle the competition for political power and secure it for themselves and their party.
Our representatives’ priorities should be to draw fair maps that keep our communities whole and genuinely assess the political will of voters, but recent redistricting cycles in North Carolina have served politicians, not people. Greedy politicians have turned our district lines into power lines that surge with corruption and dysfunction.
Partisan Gamesmanship and Racial Discrimination
The Voting Rights Act and the Constitution prohibit racial discrimination in redistricting, but Black, Latine, Asian & Pacific Islander, and Indigenous communities continue to be targeted, packed, and cracked to give power-hungry politicians an advantage.
This is because politicians defend their maps in Court by arguing that they are partisan gerrymanders, lawfully discriminating against voters of the opposing party, not against communities based on race.
In the South, persistent residential segregation makes it harder for politicians to slice and dice white Democrats and white Republicans who live in close proximity to one another. It is easier to identify Black voters and other communities of color, and since party preference and race are often correlated, politicians target these communities.
They dilute the voting strength of historically disenfranchised communities and hinder their ability to elect representatives who fight for the resources they need and the issues most important to their lives.
Where does North Carolina stand?
North Carolina is one of the most extremely gerrymandered states in the nation, and has seen numerous redistricting legal challenges in the last decade.
Most recently, in early 2022, the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down Republican-drawn maps for violating the state’s constitution as illegal partisan gerrymanders. The Court made lawmakers go back to the drawing board, resulting in new state Senate and state House districts in 2022.
After finding that lawmakers still drew a partisan-gerrymandered Congressional map, the trial court hired an expert to modify this plan to fix the gerrymander. Under this 2022 court-ordered map, voters electing Democrats and Republicans in approximately equal numbers statewide elected seven Democrats and seven Republicans to the U.S. Congress.
In early 2023, the partisan makeup of the North Carolina Supreme Court changed and it subsequently overruled its earlier holding outlawing partisan gerrymandering in the state. The Court also gave state lawmakers permission to redraw maps in 2023.
Join the #FairMaps movement to ensure all North Carolinians can meaningfully participate in a redistricting process that is fair, equitable, and transparent.
A TIMELINE OF WHAT happened in 2022
In a 4-3 decision, N.C.’s Supreme Court threw out the state’s congressional and legislative maps on Feb. 4, 2022, calling the maps “unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt.” Included in the order to redraw, the NCGA must do a racially-polarized voting (RPV) analysis and draw VRA-compliant maps.
The N.C. Supreme Court ruling meant partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional and illegal in North Carolina. While partisan gerrymandering has always been an insult to free elections and representative democracy, technological advances in recent years have allowed legislators to target certain voters with surgical precision in far more obvious attempts to entrench their own power.
The Feb. 4th ruling was also an unequivocal win for North Carolina’s Black voters, who were most harmed by these extreme partisan gerrymanders. The Court’s instructions to follow their precedent in earlier redistricting cases means legislators will have to conduct analyses required by the Voting Rights Act, and protect the ability of Black voters to elect candidates of their choice — especially in Eastern North Carolina.
On February 23, 2022, state House and Senate maps drawn by the North Carolina General Assembly, and a special expert-drawn Congressional map, were unanimously adopted by the Wake County Superior Court. After the three-judge panel accepted the remedial plans, multiple appeals were submitted by all parties. Late in the night, a final N.C. Supreme Court ruling made all three maps official voting maps for the 2022 elections.
OUR FAIR MAPS FIGHT BEGAN YEARS AGO
On August 22, 2017, North Carolinians from all across the state made their voices heard against the dangers of gerrymandering. These were some of their stories.