The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday January 22nd

Editorial: New North Carolina legislative maps undermine our elections

DTH Photo Illustration. A person views the new NC Congressional map.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. A person views the new NC Congressional map.

On Monday, a Republican-led redistricting committee in the N.C. Senate approved new congressional maps in North Carolina. The new maps will reshape the congressional districts in the U.S. House of Representatives, notably adding a new 14th congressional district in the House.

The new maps will go into effect for the 2022 election cycle. Based on election data, the new maps would likely lead to 10 Republicans and four Democrats elected to the House from North Carolina.

This ratio is contrary to North Carolina’s role as a purple state, where former Republican President Donald Trump won North Carolina by less than two points and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper won by less than four points in the 2020 election cycle.

The proposed maps are labeled as an instance of “extreme gerrymandering” by state Democrats. They argue the congressional districts were drawn with partisan advantage in mind. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, which uses statistical models to grade congressional redistricting processes, gave the new map a rating of "F."

State Democrats are questioning the Republican decision to split the Democratic-leaning Guilford, Mecklenburg and Wake counties into three different congressional districts, claiming the move was meant to give Republicans a partisan advantage in next year’s election cycle.

Representative Kathy Manning, a Democrat who represents the 6th district, which currently spans all of Guilford County and half of Forsyth county, voiced her displeasure of the new maps in an interview with Spectrum News. 

"These congressional maps represent an extreme partisan gerrymander that splits communities of interest," Manning said. "Under these maps, Guilford County is split into three congressional districts, diluting my constituents' interests and lumping them in with far-flung counties in the western mountains, the suburbs of Charlotte and as far east as Wake County.”

Manning’s path to reelection now appears much more difficult with her district makeup shifting from an urban to a rural setting, placing her residence in the same district as seasoned GOP Rep. Virginia Foxx from Watauga County. 

“It’s not coincident that it’s only in the urban areas that you subject these counties to that kind of treatment,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue in front of the N.C. General Assembly. “This kind of radical extreme effort simply takes (legislators) out of the process." 

Blue promised that there would be lawsuits if any of the redistricting plans Republicans presented were approved.

The North Carolina Republican-led Redistricting Committee's maps represent everything wrong with partisan map-making.

The manipulation in the proposed maps is evident.

For example, the newly proposed 11th District ranges all the way from Watauga to Guilford counties, an area spanning more than 125 miles long. The newly proposed 3rd District spans from Wake County to the coast, grouping areas like Holly Springs and Jacksonville — grouping people of vastly different needs — under one representative. 

It's unrealistic to expect one public official of either political party could fulfill the needs of both a suburban and rural family at the same time.  

One potential alternative to partisan map-drawing would be to employ an independent commission. States would then give the responsibility for drawing voting districts over to the commissions. Since the Constitution gives state legislatures the authority to draw political districts, they also have the authority to hand responsibility to another organization.

Seventeen states have already adopted these independent commissions. Those states have seen success with fair and compact districts by adhering to strict criteria, such as complying with federal and state constitutions, equal population, protecting language and racial minorities, partisan fairness, compactness and contiguity.

It’s time to change how we draw our maps in North Carolina. When maps are undermined, our elections are undermined, and when our elections are undermined, our democracy is compromised.

@dthopinion

opinion@dailytarheel.com

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