Redistricting process starts in N.C.

Lawmakers pitch the criteria they'll use to draw new election maps for Congress, General Assembly.

Posted Updated
voting map, redistricting
Travis Fain
, WRAL statehouse reporter

North Carolina Republicans rolled out 10 criteria Monday for the coming redraw of the state's political maps, a key step in a process that will play out in the coming weeks and have ramifications for a decade or more.

The actual election maps can't be drawn until after the latest Census figures are released later this week and processed, which will likely take legislative staffers days if not weeks. But the criteria lay the ground rules, limiting how lawmakers can draw the new lines and where those lines can fall.

Among the proposed rules: No consideration of partisan data or past election results in the draw this time out, and no consideration of race. Past maps drawn by the state's Republican majority have repeatedly been thrown out by the courts either as racial gerrymanders or overly partisan ones.

Lawmakers could take into account, under these rules, where an existing member of the legislature or U.S. Congress lives to avoid double-bunking elected officials as they rework districts.

A joint House-Senate committee on redistricting met briefly on the proposed criteria Monday and plans to gather again Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. for a public hearing in room 544 of the legislative office building in downtown Raleigh. Those interested in speaking can sign up online here.

The criteria will likely be approved Thursday in another 8:30 a.m. meeting, a committee chairman said. Senate Republican leadership described the criteria as "nearly identical" to the rules used in a court-ordered 2019 redraw and noted that Democrats praised the maps produced then as, in Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue's words, "fair and nonpartisan."

As the process plays out this time it will be closely watched, because the way these maps are drawn could go a long way to determining which political party holds power, both in Congress and the state General Assembly, between now and the next Census. The legislature's Republican majority controls the process, and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper can't veto maps once passed.

However, Democratic groups have sued repeatedly, and successfully, over the last decade to change North Carolina's maps.

The proposed criteria, as presented in committee Monday, are reprinted here:
  • Equal Population. The Committees will use the 2020 federal decennial census data as the sole basis of population for the establishment of districts in the 2021 Congressional, House and Senate plans. The number of persons in each legislative district shall be within plus or minus 5 percent of the ideal district population, as determined under the most recent federal decennial census. The number of persons in each congressional district shall be as nearly as equal as practicable, as determined under the most recent federal decennial census.
  • Contiguity. Legislative and congressional districts shall be comprised of contiguous territory. Contiguity by water is sufficient.
  • Counties, Groupings and Traversals. The Committees shall draw legislative districts within county groupings as required by Stephenson v. Bartlett, 355 N.C. 354, 562 S.E. 2d 377 (2002) (Stephenson I), Stephenson v. Bartlett, 357 N.C. 301, 582 S.E.2d 247 (2003) (Stephenson II), Dickson v. Rucho, 367 N.C. 542, 766 S.E.2d 238 (2014) (Dickson I) and Dickson v. Rucho, 368 N.C. 481, 781 S.E.2d 460 (2015) (Dickson II). Within county groupings, county lines shall not be traversed except as authorized by Stephenson I, Stephenson II, Dickson I, and Dickson II. Division of counties in the 2021 Congressional plan shall only be made for reasons of equalizing population and consideration of double bunking. If a county is of sufficient population size to contain an entire congressional district within the county’s boundaries, the Committees shall construct a district entirely within that county.
  • Racial Data. Data identifying the race of individuals or voters shall not be used in the construction or consideration of districts in the 2021 Congressional, House and Senate plans.
  • VTDs. Voting districts (“VTDs”) should be split only when necessary.
  • Compactness. The Committees shall make reasonable efforts to draw legislative districts in the 2021 Congressional, House and Senate plans that are compact. In doing so, the Committee may use as a guide the minimum Reock (“dispersion”) and Polsby-Popper (“perimeter”) scores identified by Richard H. Pildes and Richard G. Neimi in Expressive Harms, "Bizarre Districts," and Voting Rights: Evaluating Election-District Appearances After Shaw v. Reno, 92 Mich. L. Rev. 483 (1993).
  • Municipal Boundaries. The Committees may consider municipal boundaries when drawing districts in the 2021 Congressional, House and Senate plans.
  • Election Data. Partisan considerations and election results data shall not be used in the drawing of districts in the 2021 Congressional, House and Senate plans.
  • Member Residence. Member residence may be considered in the formation of legislative and congressional districts.
  • Community Consideration. So long as a plan complies with the foregoing criteria, local knowledge of the character of communities and connections between communities may be considered in the formation of legislative and congressional districts.


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