Redistricting in North Carolina
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|Redistricting in North Carolina|
|Current legislative control: |
|Congressional process: |
|State legislature process: |
|State Senate: 50|
|State House: 120|
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|Redistricting • State-by-state redistricting procedures • State legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 Census|
- 1 Background
- 2 State process
- 3 District maps
- 4 Competitiveness
- 5 Race and ethnicity
- 6 Redistricting after the 2010 census
- 7 Redistricting ballot measures
- 8 Recent news
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
Redistricting is a fiercely-contested issue, primarily due to gerrymandering, the practice of drawing district lines to favor one political party, individual or constituency over another. Two areas of contention include the following:
- Competitiveness: Political parties and incumbents sometimes draw district lines for their benefit at the expense of proportionality and fair representation. Some argue that this practice contributes to the present lack of competitive elections. Uncompetitive elections can in turn discourage participation.
- Race and ethnicity: District lines sometimes minimize the influence of minority voters by disproportionately consolidating them within single districts or splitting them across several districts. These practices are known as "packing" and "cracking," respectively.
- See also: Redistricting
Federal law stipulates that all districts, whether congressional or state legislative, must meet two primary criteria.
- Equal population: According to All About Redistricting, federal law "requires that each district have about the same population: each federal district within a state must have about the same number of people [and] each state district within a state must have about the same number of people." Specific standards for determining whether populations are sufficiently equal vary for congressional and state legislative districts. See below for further details.
- Race and ethnicity: Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 states that district lines must not dilute the voting power of racial or ethnic minority groups. This provision "applies whether the denial is intentional, or an unintended end result. Courts essentially test whether the way that districts are drawn takes decisive political power away from a cohesive minority bloc otherwise at risk for discrimination."
In most states, the legislatures are primarily responsible for both congressional and state legislative redistricting. However, reformers argue that partisan legislators are incapable of establishing fair district lines because they have a vested interest in the outcome. Instead, reformers advocate using different redistricting processes, including independent commissions or electronic methods. Opponents of these reforms argue that alternative processes are less accountable to voters, subject to partisan abuse, and perhaps unconstitutional.
Key terms and concepts
- A community of interest is a "group of people in a geographical area, such as a specific region or neighborhood, who have common political, social or economic interests." A total of 24 states require that the maintenance of communities of interest be considered in the drawing of state legislative districts. A total of 13 states impose similar requirements for congressional districts.
- Compactness refers to the general principle that "the distance between all parts of a district" ought to be minimized. The United States Supreme Court has "construed compacted to indicate that residents have some sort of cultural cohesion in common." A total of 37 states "require their legislative districts to be reasonably compact." A total of 18 states impose similar requirements for congressional districts.
- Contiguity refers to the principle that all areas within a district should be "physically adjacent." A total of 49 states require that districts of at least one state legislative chamber be contiguous. A total of 23 states require that congressional districts meet contiguity requirements.
- Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing district lines to favor one political party, individual or constituency over another.
- A total of 42 states require that state legislative district lines be drawn to account for political boundaries (e.g., the limits of counties, cities and towns). A total of 19 states require that similar considerations be made in the drawing of congressional districts. Typically, these requirements are quite flexible.
According to Article 1, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, the states and their legislatures have primary authority in determining the "times, places and manner" of congressional elections. Congress may also pass laws regulating congressional elections. Section 4 explicitly vests the authority to regulate congressional elections with the legislative branches of the states and the federal government and not with the executive or judicial branches.
|“||The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.||”|
—United States Constitution
Article 1, Section 2, of the United States Constitution stipulates that congressional representatives be apportioned to the states on the basis of population. There are 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives. Each state is allotted a portion of these seats based on the size of its population relative to the other states. Consequently, a state may gain seats in the House if its population grows, or lose seats if its population decreases, relative to populations in other states. In 1964, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Wesberry v. Sanders that the populations of House districts must be equal "as nearly as practicable."
The equal population requirement for congressional districts is strict. According to All About Redistricting, "any district with more or fewer people than the average (also know as the 'ideal' population), must be specifically justified by a consistent state policy. And even consistent policies that cause a 1 percent spread from largest to smallest district will likely be unconstitutional."
State legislative redistricting
The United States Constitution is silent on the issue of state legislative redistricting. In the mid-1960s, the United States Supreme Court issued a series of rulings in an effort to clarify standards for state legislative redistricting. In Reynolds v. Sims, the court ruled that "the Equal Protection Clause [of the United States Constitution] demands no less than substantially equal state legislative representation for all citizens, of all places as well as of all races." According to All About Redistricting, "it has become accepted that a [redistricting] plan will be constitutionally suspect if the largest and smallest districts [within a state or jurisdiction] are more than 10 percent apart."
- See also: State-by-state redistricting procedures
In 37 states, legislatures are primarily responsible for drawing congressional district lines. Seven states have only one congressional district each, so congressional redistricting is not necessary. Four states employ independent commissions to draw the district maps. In two states, politician commissions draw congressional district lines.
State legislative district lines are primarily the province of the state legislatures themselves in 37 states. In seven states, politician commissions draw state legislative district lines. In the remaining six states, independent commissions draw the lines.
In North Carolina, the state legislature is responsible for drawing both congressional and state legislative district lines. District maps cannot be voted by the governor. State legislative redistricting must take place in the first regular legislative session following the United States Census. There are no explicit deadlines in place for congressional redistricting.
State law establishes the following requirements for state legislative districts:
- Districts must be contiguous and compact.
- Districts "must cross county lines as little as possible." If counties are grouped together, the group should include as few counties as possible.
- Communities of interest should be taken into account.
There are no similar restrictions in place regarding congressional districts.
North Carolina comprises 13 congressional districts. The map to the right depicts North Carolina's congressional district lines as drawn following the 2010 United States Census. The table below lists North Carolina's current House representatives.
|North Carolina delegation to the United States House of Representatives|
|Name||Party||Position||Assumed office||Term ends|
|Alma Adams||District 12||2014||January 3, 2017|
|David Price||District 4||1997||January 3, 2017|
|David Rouzer||District 7||2015||January 3, 2017|
|G.K. Butterfield||District 1||2004||January 3, 2017|
|George E.B. Holding||District 13||2013||January 3, 2017|
|Mark Meadows||District 11||2013||January 3, 2017|
|Mark Walker||District 6||2015||January 3, 2017|
|Patrick T. McHenry||District 10||2005||January 3, 2017|
|Renee Ellmers||District 2||2011||January 3, 2017|
|Richard Hudson||District 8||2013||January 3, 2017|
|Robert Pittenger||District 9||2013||January 3, 2017|
|Virginia Foxx||District 5||2005||January 3, 2017|
|Walter B. Jones||District 3||1995||January 3, 2017|
State legislative maps
North Carolina comprises 50 state Senate districts and 120 state House districts. State senators are elected every two years in partisan elections. State representatives are elected every two years in partisan elections. To access the current state legislative district maps, click here.
Some critics contend that the dominant redistricting methods result in a lack of competitive elections. Jennifer Clark, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said, "The redistricting process has important consequences for voters. In some states, incumbent legislators work together to protect their own seats, which produces less competition in the political system. Voters may feel as though they do not have a meaningful alternative to the incumbent legislator. Legislators who lack competition in their districts have less incentive to adhere to their constituents’ opinions."
The individuals involved in redistricting must balance the desire for increased competitiveness with other principles that might conflict with that goal, such as compactness, contiguity, and maintaining communities of interest. For instance, it may at times be impossible to draw a competitive district that is both compact and preserves communities of interest.
In 2011, James Cottrill, a professor of political science at Santa Clara University, published a study of the effect of "non-legislative approaches" to redistricting on the competitiveness of congressional elections. Cottrill found that "particular types of [non-legislative approaches] encourage the appearance in congressional elections of experienced and well-financed challengers." Cottrill cautioned, however, that non-legislative approaches "contribute neither to decreased vote percentages when incumbents win elections nor to a greater probability of their defeat."
In 2014, Ballotpedia analyzed the margins of victory in all 435 contests for the United States House of Representatives. Ballotpedia found that the average margin of victory was 35.8 percent, compared to 31.8 percent in 2012. A total of 318 elections (73 percent of all House elections) were won by margins of victory of 20 percent or more. Only 26 elections (6 percent of the total) were won by margins of victory of 5 percent or less.
In North Carolina, 10 elections for the United States House of Representatives were won by margins of victory of 20 percent or greater. The smallest margin of victory occurred in District 13, where George Holding (R) won by 14.6 percent. The greatest margin of victory occurred in District 9, where Robert Pittenger (R) won by 92.5 percent. The average margin of victory was 36.6 percent. See the table below for full details.
|Electoral margins of victory in 2014 United States House of Representatives elections, North Carolina|
|District||Winner||Margin of victory||Total votes cast||Top opponent|
|District 1||G.K. Butterfield||46.8%||210,323||Arthur Rich|
|District 2||Renee Ellmers||17.7%||207,607||Clay Aiken|
|District 3||Walter Jones||35.6%||205,597||Marshall Adame|
|District 4||David Price||49.5%||227,362||Paul Wright|
|District 5||Virginia Foxx||22%||228,252||Josh Brannon|
|District 6||Mark Walker||17.3%||251,070||Laura Fjeld|
|District 7||David Rouzer||22.2%||226,504||Jonathan Barfield, Jr.|
|District 8||Richard Hudson||29.7%||187,422||Antonio Blue|
|District 9||Robert Pittenger||92.5%||173,668||Shawn Eckles|
|District 11||Mark Meadows||25.8%||230,024||Tom Hill|
|District 12||Alma Adams||50.7%||172,664||Vince Coakley|
|District 12 Special Election||Alma Adams||50.9%||169,246||Vince Coakley|
|District 13||George Holding||14.6%||268,709||Brenda Cleary|
In 2014, Ballotpedia conducted a study of competitive districts in 46 state legislative chambers between 2010 and 2012. The most recent United States Census was conducted in 2010. This triggered the drawing of the district lines that were in place for elections in 2012. Ballotpedia found that there were 61 fewer competitive general election contests in 2012 than in 2010. Of the 44 chambers studied, 25 experienced a net loss in the number of competitive elections. A total of 17 experienced a net increase. In total, 16.2 percent of the 3,842 legislative contests studied saw competitive general elections in 2010. In 2012, only 14.6 percent of the contests studied saw competitive general elections. For more information regarding this report, including methodology, click here.
There were only two competitive races for the North Carolina State Senate in 2012, compared to five in 2010. There were four mildly competitive state Senate elections in 2012, compared to six in 2010. This amounted to a net loss of two competitive elections.
There were nine competitive races for the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2012, compared to 10 in 2010. There were six mildly competitive state House elections in 2012, compared to 11 in 2010. This amounted to a net loss of six competitive elections.
|Party||As of April 2015|
|Party||As of April 2015|
Race and ethnicity
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 mandates that electoral district lines cannot be drawn in such a manner as to "improperly dilute minorities' voting power."
|“||No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.||”|
—Voting Rights Act of 1965
States and other political subdivisions may create majority-minority districts in order to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. A majority-minority district (sometimes called a minority opportunity district) is a district in which minority groups comprise a majority of the district's total population. As of 2013, North Carolina was home to three congressional majority-minority districs.
Proponents of majority-minority districts maintain that these districts are a necessary hindrance to the practice of "cracking." Cracking occurs when a constituency is divided between several districts in order to prevent it from achieving a majority in any one district. In addition, supporters argue that the drawing of majority-minority districts has resulted in an increased number of minority representatives in state legislatures and Congress.
Critics, meanwhile, contend that the establishment of majority-minority districts results in "packing." Packing occurs when a constituency or voting group is placed within a single district, thereby minimizing its influence in other districts. Because minority groups tend to vote Democratic, critics argue that majority-minority districts ultimately present an unfair advantage to Republicans by consolidating Democratic votes into a smaller number of districts.
The tables below provide demographic information for each of North Carolina's congressional districts as of 2013. At that time, the population of the largest congressional district, District 1, totaled 728,046, and the population of the smallest, District 2, totaled 751,263, which represented a difference of 3.2 percent.
|Demographics of North Carolina's congressional districts (as percentages)|
|Source: United States Census Bureau, "2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates," accessed April 8, 2015|
|Demographics of North Carolina's congressional districts|
|Source: United States Census Bureau, "2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates," accessed April 8, 2015|
Redistricting after the 2010 census
Following the 2010 United States Census, North Carolina neither gained nor lost congressional seats. In 2010, Republicans won control of both chambers of the state legislature. Consequently, Republicans dominated the 2010 redistricting process.
On July 27, 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly approved congressional and state legislative redistricting plans. The Almanac of American Politics described the congressional map as follows:
|“||[Republicans] painstakingly packed Democratic voters into just three of the state’s 13 seats: an African-American majority 1st District covering parts of rural northeastern counties and heavily black neighborhoods in Durham, an almost comically liberal 4th District tying via tentacles the academic haven of Chapel Hill to black neighborhoods in Raleigh and faraway Fayetteville, and an even more tightly packed African-American majority 12th District knifing along the I-85 corridor from Charlotte to Winston-Salem and Greensboro. Republicans drew the other 10 seats at least 10 percentage points more Republican than the national average.||”|
—The Almanac of American Politics
These plans were granted preclearance by the United States Department of Justice on November 1, 2011. The legislature made technical corrections to the new congressional and state legislative district maps on November 7, 2011. The U.S. Department of Justice precleared the amended maps on December 8, 2011.
Following the 2012 election, the first to take place under the new maps, Democrats won only four of the state's 13 congressional seats, even though they "won a majority of the state's votes in House races."
Dickson v. Rucho
|“||Election and civil rights advocacy groups and Democratic voters in North Carolina sued over the maps and argued that lawmakers created oddly shaped districts to create clusters of Democratic-leaning black voters. The redrawing of the map had the effect of benefiting Republicans elsewhere in the state. Republicans said the districts were lawful and designed to protect the state from legal claims under the federal Voting Rights Act.||”|
A trial court rejected the challenge on July 8, 2013. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court. On December 19, 2014, the court upheld the trial court's decision rejecting the challenge. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court, which ordered the state supreme court to reconsider its earlier ruling. In March 2015, the high court ruled similarly in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama.
Senator Bob Rucho (R), a named defendant in the suit, said, "Today's procedural ruling is not unexpected, and we are confident that our state Supreme Court will once again arrive at the same result and the U.S. Supreme Court will affirm its decision." Margaret Dickson, one of the plaintiffs and a former state House member, said, "We have always known that the current maps were unconstitutional and are gratified that the Supreme Court of the United States has now set in motion a way forward for final disposition of this long-running and wrongly-decided case."
Redistricting ballot measures
elections and campaigns
|Not on ballot|
Ballotpedia has tracked the following ballot measure(s) relating to redistricting in North Carolina.
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms "Redistricting North Carolina."
- Some of the stories below may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of Google's news search engine.
- Redistricting in North Carolina after the 2010 census
- State-by-state redistricting procedures
- State legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 census
- Margin of victory in state legislative elections before and after the 2010 census
- Margin of victory analysis for the 2014 congressional elections
- All About Redistricting
- National Conference of State Legislatures, "Redistricting Process"
- FairVote, "Redistricting"
- The Redistricting Game
- All About Redistricting, "Why does it matter?" accessed April 8, 2015
- Indy Week, "Cracked, stacked and packed: Initial redistricting maps met with skepticism and dismay," June 29, 2011
- The Atlantic, "How the Voting Rights Act Hurts Democrats and Minorities," June 17, 2013
- Redrawing the Lines, "The Role of Section 2 - Majority Minority Districts," accessed April 6, 2015
- All About Redistricting, "Where are the lines drawn?" accessed April 9, 2015
- FairVote, "Redistricting Glossary," accessed April 9, 2015
- The Atlantic, "The Twisted History of Gerrymandering in American Politics," September 19, 2012
- Encyclopædia Britannica, "Gerrymandering," November 4, 2014
- The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, "Election Regulations," accessed April 13, 2015
- Brookings, "Redistricting and the United States Constitution," March 22, 2011
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Brennan Center for Justice, "A Citizen's Guide to Redistricting," accessed March 25, 2015
- The Constitution of the United States of America, "Article 1, Section 2," accessed March 25, 2015
- All About Redistricting, "Who draws the lines?" accessed March 25, 2015
- All About Redistricting, "North Carolina," accessed April 20, 2015
- North Carolina General Assembly, "Who Represents Me?" accessed April 20, 2015
- The Daily Cougar, "Redistricting will affect November election," October 16, 2012
- Polity, "The Effects of Non-Legislative Approaches to Redistricting on Competition in Congressional Elections," October 3, 2011
- Yale Law School, The Avalon Project, "Voting Rights Act of 1965; August 6, 1965," accessed April 6, 2015
- United States Census Bureau, "2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates," accessed April 8, 2015
- Barone, M. & McCutcheon, C. (2013). The almanac of American politics 2014 : the senators, the representatives and the governors : their records and election results, their states and districts. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
- ABC News, "Supreme Court Orders Review of North Carolina Redistricting," April 20, 2015
- WRAL.com, "U.S. Supreme Court orders review of NC redistricting," April 20, 2015