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Charlotte City Council Redistricting Could Give Democrats 10 Of 11 Seats

Charlotte City Council is starting the process of drawing new district maps based on population data from the 2020 census, with the most contentious issue expected to be how many district seats Republicans are likely to win.

Democrats have had a 9-2 council majority since 2011.

Four of those seats are citywide at-large seats. Democrats control all of those and will be heavily favored to win them again in next spring’s municipal election. There are seven district seats. Democrats control five and the GOP has two: Districts 6 and 7.

Will the GOP continue to be favored in those two district seats, or will a new district map reduce the number of Republican-leaning seats to one?

Charlotte City Council district seats 1, 5 and 6 have too few people. They need to grow in size.
City of Charlotte
Charlotte City Council district seats 1, 5 and 6 have too few people. They need to grow in size.

District 7, which covers Ballantyne, won’t change much. It is close to the new population size of 125,000, and it’s accepted that its boundaries will remain much the same. It’s likely to continue leaning Republican.

But District 6, which covers SouthPark and south Charlotte, must add about 11,000 new voters. If it moves to the north to include all of Myers Park and Eastover, it may remain a GOP-leaning district. If it moves to west, past South Boulevard, Democrats may be able to pick up a sixth district seat.

That could allow them to have a 10-1 advantage on City Council, instead of their 9-2 majority today.

Democratic City Council member Malcolm Graham, who is chairing a special redistricting committee, said during a news conference Monday that Charlotte is increasingly a blue city. He noted that the County Board of Commissioners is entirely comprised of Democrats and that there is only Republican member in Mecklenburg County’s legislative delegation.

He said that District 6 “will probably be anecdotally a toss-up based on the numbers.”

Graham then added that “has to be (supported) by the facts and the data.”

Last week, the special committee voted 3-0 to not make partisan balance a factor in the new district lines.

Graham said Monday that vote was unanimous, but the one Republican member of the special committee, Ed Driggs, missed that part of the meeting. Driggs said he would have voted to suggest that City Council consider the partisan balance when drawing the maps.

One subplot of the map-making is a rivalry between Graham and District 6 GOP council member Tariq Bokhari.

Earlier this year, Bokhari and Graham clashed publicly over the 2040 Charlotte Future Comprehensive Plan. Bokhari voted against it and Graham voted for it.

Later, in an interview with Axios Charlotte, Bokhari called Graham a “hack.”

In an interview last week, Graham said he would not be looking for any payback against Bokhari when drawing the new maps. He said data would drive the process.

Charlotte has hired former city attorney Mac McCarley as a consultant. He will likely present the council with at least three maps for members to choose from.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.