Republicans in North Carolina are well positioned to get at least two seats in the House of Representatives in next year’s election – but that’s not because the state is getting “redder.”
The state remains an eternal battlefield, closely split between Democrats and Republicans in elections. But last week the GOP-controlled Legislature completed maps that are redrawing the boundaries of Congressional districts and dividing Democratic voters in cities to water down their votes.
The new plan increased the number of GOP-oriented districts in the state from eight to ten. Republicans even have a chance of eleventh place.
The North Carolina plan was instantly criticized for its aggressive approach, but it is hardly standing alone.
Experts and lawmakers following the decade-long reallocation process see a cycle of charged gerrymandering.
With fewer legal restrictions and heightened political stance, both Democrats and Republicans are pushing the boundaries of tactics that have long been used to leverage districts for maximum partisan advantage, often at the expense of community unity or racial representation.
“Without reform, gerrymandering has generally gotten worse than the last round of redistribution,” said Chris Warshaw, a political scientist at George Washington University who has analyzed decades of redistribution plans in US states.
Republicans have dominated redistribution for the past decade, helping them gain greater political advantage in more states than any party has had in the past 50 years.
The potential Republican net gain of three seats in North Carolina could be completely wiped out in Illinois, where the Democrats control the legislature.
In the 13 states that have so far passed new congressional cards, the cumulative effect is essentially a wash for Republicans and Democrats, leaving few districts left.
That could change in the coming weeks as Republican-controlled lawmakers scrutinize proposed Georgia, New Hampshire and Ohio maps targeting Democratic seats.
“You see Republican gerrymander down the line,” said Kelly Ward Burton, executive director of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which oversees redistribution for the Democratic Party.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who leads the Democrats’ efforts, has called for more states to set up redistribution commissions.
In Maryland, the Democrats are considering a proposal that would make it easier for a Democrat to oust the state’s only Republican Congressman.
Newly passed Congressional cards in Indiana, Arkansas, and Alabama all retain an existing Republican advantage.